What a day! Media day is always a day for unbridled enthusiasm and excitement, even for the most pessimistic Nuggets fans like myself. A lot was said at media day and most of it was the typical rah-rah, "we're going to surprise some people" kind of talk but there was also a ton of interesting things observed throughout the day. I went in to the day with a lot of questions and curiosity and I left with a whole new set of questions and excitement.
If there was one star of the show today it was new head coach Michael Malone. He answered everything that the press threw at him with poise and clarity. The clarity part was the most impressive to me. Last season, in what turned out to be my first ever press conference question, I asked Brian Shaw about the team's stagnation in half court offense. The question seemed to confound Shaw and his answer came across like a student who didn't read the chapter assigned for homework and now had his name called in the middle of class.
With Malone, not only were a lot of his answers illuminating, he seemed to understand all of the moving parts involved in the question and saw the core ideas behind each question from all angles. For example, I asked him about the defensive foul rate last season, since the Nuggets put their opponents on the line more frequently than any other team. First, he was already aware of that stat. Second, he noted how in Sacramento they had a similar issue (which I had already researched and was prepared to follow up). And lastly, he explained the way that fouls can be a product of both personal development and scheme, and that defending without fouling will be instrumental in the team's philosophy of fast breaking off of defense.
Fouling negates hustle. You can't put your opponent on the free throw line 28-29 times a game like they did last season. Cause when you do that, you're killing your flow. We want to be a team that plays with pace, and gets up and down. And when you continually put your opponent on the free throw line, you're stopping the game, you're allowing them to set their defense, and slow you up. On top of the fact that a lot of those fouls are going to be silly fouls. Undisciplined fouls. Guys reaching.
We had the same issues in Sacramento. So you have to make sure in practice you're calling it a lot tighter.
Me and my staff, we have to make sure that we're on top of our guys.
It will be a point of emphasis this year so I think it's player development, but also team development. And making sure they understand why we don't want to foul and all of the bad things that happen when you put teams on the foul line so often.
This is only a bit of his response, but you can see how clear he sees the issue, how prepared he already is to address this issue with the team, and how he already has coaching strategies in place to improve this issue. This doesn't guarantee that what he does in training camp will be effective, but he clearly sees the issue from all angles. That alone, was a joy to watch.
Malone has such a commanding presence that Tim's job today was fairly easy. Where last year the questions from the media seemed to be pointed at Tim as much as they were at Shaw, today, Tim got to play the role of sidekick in the Malone/Connelly press conference. This isn't in any way a knock on Tim. After all, the real news coming into the season is about the new guys, especially Emmanuel Mudiay and Malone.
It seemed like Malone let it slip on accident that Nurkic would possibly not be ready for the start of the season, indicating that he may be further behind than what has been let on by the organization. He casually mentioned it in his presser but then the entire media room looked around at each other and immediately followed it up trying to get more info. Both he and Tim Connelly deflected any requests for a specific timetable but it seems pretty clear that he is a ways away from being full strength and that the team is going to be extra cautious in how and when they bring him back.
Hey Denver Nuggets fans!! You like our Jersey??? pic.twitter.com/k2I2iwKY5w— Jusuf Nurkić (@nurkic23) September 28, 2015
The natural question is: "Who is going to play center?" There isn't a natural center on the roster other than Nurkic and so it would seem that the Nuggets will open the season with a lot of small ball. Darrell Arthur and Joffrey Lauvergne are the early candidates to play center to start the season but it will be very interesting to see what the team does if Nurkic misses significant time.
Like Malone, Darrell was an incredible interview as well, answering every question with interesting anecdotes and honesty. One of the coolest nuggets that he shared with the media was that he has focused his perimeter shooting to just a few spots around the court. The corner 3, the wing 3, and the mid range from the top of the key. This is probably a great idea for him since he isn't a terrific 3-point shooter. The corner 3 is the short spot behind the arc and the wings are important for spacing reasons. Standing inside of the arc at the top of the key won't affect the Nuggets' spacing so he is smart to amend his game a bit and work on the spots he mentioned.
Darrell also mentioned that he loves working out at Red Rocks, especially super early in the morning before it gets too hot out.
I love Coach's energy. I love his knowledge about the game and the way he approaches it.
(Last season) we let teams score damn near 60 points at the half every game and that's unacceptable.
Last year I was in Memphis, I think (the Nuggets) lost 3 home games. And we didn't want to see any part of that. I think we can get back to that, just the altitude, and running everyone out the gym, and killing people. I think everyone likes each other too. Everyone wants to be around each other.
Jokic was the first one out in front of the media today although unfortunately, I wasn't able to interview him. However, coach Malone mentioned that he had dropped 30 lbs since summer league and while that number might be a bit exaggerated, he certainly looked a bit leaner today than when I last saw him in July.
He also looked like the big puppy dog out there, a young child among men. He and Jusuf Nurkic both have a very light spirit about them and almost seem like kids among boys at times. Their youthful spirit is very evident just from the way that they carry themselves but it was good to see Jokic already messing around with his teammates and looking like he is comfortable with everyone. Jameer Nelson and Nick Johnson in particular were among the teammates hanging with the young rookie.
Speaking of looking leaner, Gallo appeared very svelte and he credited Eurobasket with that. Since he was occupied this season with the national team, this was actually the first time that he's been back in Denver for quite some time and so he hasn't been around some of the newcomers as much as everyone else.
I don't know if win equals (improved) culture or culture equals (improved) win.
I've never had problems guarding different positions so problems will not start now.
I never had problems with my confidence. My confidence is always been pretty high in myself.I was just glad to stay in Denver and that was my goal. If you see my history with contracts, it's never been about money because if it was about money I would have made other choices. But I love Denver. I love Denver and I want to stay here as long as I can. I want to finish my career here. I was glad that I was able to sign this contract.
Gallo also said that his conversations with Malone have not been about basketball, just relationship building. They went to lunch and dinner together almost every day for 4 days in Italy and the two guys had a lot of fun. He even said that he thinks Malone gained a bit of weight!
Jameer was the first player to address the media and he provided a lot of interesting insights. Most interesting to me was when I asked him if he had thought at all about coaching after he is done as a player. He quickly said he hadn't thought about it but then went on to give a really long speech about how he is in good standing with a lot of people around the league and why he thinks he would make a good NBA coach. I found the response to be a sort of "Oh I haven't thought about it... but yes that would be fun and I think I'd be good at it, and in a couple of years when I'm retired please let me know if you hear of any openings."
I still feel like I have a lot of years left to play.
Ya know, I have a pretty good name in the league so if I want to coach one day... me showing a coach or the organization the hard work that I can put in and the determination. If I can take what I've built from the court to the coaching locker room or front office, maybe I can do that.
He also said that Denver reminds him a lot of his hometown, Philadelphia, in that it is a sports town and the people here love their teams.
Lastly, it seemed like Jameer fancies himself a leader of Emmanuel, but more by example than as a mentor.
I'm going to lead as much as you need me to lead. I'm not going to be the guy that, I'm not going to overstep my boundaries.
I would never try to teach (Mudiay) or show him, or make him play a way that he doesn't play. I could just show him little things like how to create space or pick and roll. Certain little things. Nothing I could say to him that he doesn't already know about basketball. First thing about basketball is go out there and compete as hard as you can. That's the main thing.
I'm excited, just overall, about this season. I'm excited to be here in front of you guys right now, talking to the media, being here in Denver. I'm just excited. I'm just an excited person right now.
It's hard to tell but I think he's excited.
Faried is an interesting character and he can come across at times as very thoughtful, very closed off and distrustful, and sometimes very grumpy. He's been known to be very short in interviews in the past but today he was open, long winded, and even a bit playful. To take him at face value, Faried is looking at this season as a new start and he's very confident in the season he will have this year, especially on the defensive end. He also had an interesting comment about loving small ball but preferring to save it for the end of games, rather than the beginning.
I think I'm a good enough player to switch on to any player in this league and guard them and keep them in front.
(The Ty Lawson trade) hurt me because he's my best friend. But it's the nature of the beast. You gotta live with it.
For me, I know that I have a big role this year. Off the rip, I'm the highest paid player on this team. So I have to come out and perform like that each and every night.
I love switching (pick and rolls). It makes things a lot easier! If I can keep them in front and make them, not take a 3 but take a long 2, or even if they go to the hole and try to score, I'm quick enough and athletic enough to go get it or contest.
I love (playing 5) at the end of the game cause early 5's still have their energy, they're big strong.
For the most part, Faried was a human media day bingo board, talking about his great shape, how the team will surprise people, how they're ready to run, yet also play defense, while also unleashing the manimal (yes he said that several times). It was a lot of the typical speak but his enthusiasm and eagerness to get started was very palpable.
You didn't think I forgot about Mudiay, did you?
Mudiay was the focal point of media day and everybody was eager to get a look at the rookie and see how he'd handle the avalanche of questions thrown at him. As we've quickly become accustomed to, Mudiay is an incredibly poised young man and handles each question very calmly and thoughtfully. You get the impression talking to him that nothing fazes him and despite the 20 or so microphones in his face, he handled himself like a 10-year veteran, not a 19 year old rookie.
Mudiay looked a bit thinner than he did at summer league and I'm not sure if that is just my eye test or if there is something to it. His rookie season will be a grind so it will be something to keep an eye on. The physical toll an NBA season puts on players is serious business and, as Julius Randle and Jabari Parker can attest to, injuries are a real risk to young players who aren't physically ready for the 82 game grind.
Mudiay said that he hasn't been out a whole lot to see the city so he isn't very familiar with it just yet. He said the only place he's been was Red Rocks for workouts and the Cherry Creek mall. However he did say that he is shocked and inspired by how much love he gets every time that he steps into public in Denver.
I haven't seen too much. I know I went to Red Rock, I ran up there with Steve Hess. That's probably the farthest I've been.
I've kinda visited a little bit but the fans man... Every time I walk somewhere though the fans, that's the biggest... I don't want to say shock but it's something that really motivates me.
The fact that I did come to Denver, it kinda made everything even better cause now he can really be around I can really talk to him (Dikembe Mutombo). I got his number.