The Denver Nuggets were missing Jordan Hamilton, personal reasons, and the team got a very lackluster effort from those that suited up. After the game, while the Wizards player were giving interviews, the Nuggets were still in their make-shift Cox Pavilion locker room - with the coaches addressing the team. They appeared after a long stint and you could hear some clapping coming from the room - trying to lift the spirit of the team.
"We try to get them to play hard on both ends of the floor," said assistant coach Lester Conner. "Not only our staff, but other staffs are looking for guys that can play with a lot of energy and effort. Tonight we played a team that was 0-2, just like us, and it seemed like their energy and effort was way better than ours."
Denver lost 97-69. Their 0-3 record, along with losing each quarter, earned the team the No. 22 seed out of the field of 22 for the tournament that begins on July 17th. The Nuggets are set to play the No. 11 New Orleans Pelicans at 4:00 p.m. MT at the Cox Pavilion.
After the game, Conner discussed why summer league play is important to the players and coaches.
"We are in an evaluation situation, where we look at guys and try to see what they can do and how they can handle certain situations. Then we'll make a judgment going forward as far as who we are going to take into training camp," said Conner. "With our regular guys we're seeing if they improved over the summer. For me, Coach Shaw, Coach Farr, and guys coming in that don't necessarily know these guys, it gives us a chance to get to know Quincy Miller, Jordan Hamilton, our rookie draft choice Erick Green, and [Evan Fournier] to give them a look and see what they can do."
One bright spot for the Nuggets has been the play of 20 year-old Quincy Miller. He averaged just 3.7 minutes in seven games with the Nuggets last season and is basically a rookie who had the advantage of working with Denver's coaches and training staff for an entire year. You can see the work paying off, even though Q still has a lot of maturing to do on the court.
"He plays in spurts," said Conner. "What he has to do is to play at a level, to not only be a good ballplayer, but to also help the ball-club win. He has ebbs-and-flows. He has got to be like a flat line and play at a constant level. Sometimes he has a good defensive effort and then the next time he doesn't. Sometimes he has a good offensive selection and then the next time he doesn't. That's not unusual in the summer league and for a guy coming into his second year, who didn't play for the team the last [year]."
You can see what Conner is talking about during these games in Vegas. Quincy looks pretty comfortable and stronger in the post than he does anywhere else on offense. He's used to playing out on the perimeter and with the ball in his hands, but his offense seems to be coming along. His desire and ability to rebound looks improved and his defense in the post looks pretty decent too. Where he struggles is out in space and in the pick-and-roll coverage. This has been a good summer league in terms of getting to see Miller's progression and it'll be good to see how he finishes up.
Evan Fournier has been having an up-and-down showing in Vegas as well. Tonight he had 12 points on 4-9 shooting (1-5 from deep), but committed 7 turnovers. He was thrust into a backup point guard role last season and showed that he was capable, but has looked uncomfortable thus far with the ball in his hands, at times.
"Pressure still bothers him a little bit," said Conner. "He had a couple turnovers where he shoved guys off of him. He has go to be able to go ahead and change directions versus getting that offensive foul. He's not comfortable with the dribble. So, we have to work on that once we get back to Denver because that's some of the problems of not being able to create space and create his own shot. Right now it looks like he's just a catch-and-shoot guy, maybe he can bring it up the floor a little bit, but then you have to wonder about what he's going to do - if he's going to make the right decision."
Conner is a very even keeled coach who shoots isn't afraid to offer criticism of his players. He's also big into player development and wants to teach these young Nuggets how to become better players. It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets do with the rest of their time in Las Vegas and then how the team meshes and progresses back in Denver.
Views you can use:
-Ty Lawson was in attendance tonight and his interview on NBA TV should be up on NBA.com very soon. It was good to see Lawson on the bench with his teammates and talking and instructing after the game a little bit
-The Nuggets committed 22 turnovers as a team against the Wizards
-The Nuggets shot 7-21 from downtown: 33.3%
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