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ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco on the Nuggets season, young core, and tonight’s matchup with the Rockets

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ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco dishes with Denver Stiffs about the Denver Nuggets

NBA: Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets will be broadcast on ESPN and called by Ryan Ruocco and Doug Collins. I was able to chat with Ruocco this afternoon about the Nuggets promising young core, the dwindling home attendance, and tonight’s matchup with James Harden and the Rockets. He had some nice perspectives on the team’s start to the season. Here’s what he had to say:

On the Nuggets season so far

“The win-loss record up until this point is definitely disappointing... but I still think there’s a lot of really good talent and big time assets that if they click, this team can be a tough team to beat on any given night regardless of who they are playing.”

On Denver’s home court advantage

“This team, record wise, went from being an incredibly prolific home team to not so much and sometimes the reputation... (is) still firmly ingrained in the minds of many in the league for awhile. But I still think it is a hard place to play because, for no doubt, the trip (to Denver) is sneaky long. Teams like Houston tonight coming in on the second night of a back to back, losing an hour coming from Pacific time to Mountain time, and the altitude I do think is hard to adjust to.”

On whether or not to play fast against the Rockets

“Sometimes when you’re playing a team that is a little more talented, when you’re asking the game to have many more possessions, you’re giving yourself more of a chance for the better talent to bare out and that can be a problem. But you don’t want to not play your game. Houston is, I believe 14th in pace, Denver is 5th.

I think that because last night was a double overtime game (for Houston), because it was a game that got over late, they had to fly from San Fran here, they lose the hour coming here, an emotional game for them as well...I think you probably do want to make sure that you push the pace the way that this team is capable of. And you can’t have the turnovers the way they had against Miami when that was really their undoing, but I don’t think that you shy away from that against Houston.”

On Emmanuel Mudiay’s upside

I definitely see the upside. This is a guy that is still 20 years old. He’s huge, for a point guard bdy he’s 6-5, with a 6-9 wing span, he’s fast. And if you look at the second half of last year, his shooting was better.

Even if you look at the five-game stretch that preceded last game, where he was turning the ball over significantly less. I also think that Michael Malone has a good feel for Mudiay’s personality and how to guide him through. So I definetely see the potential, no doubt. I also see the frustration because ultimately does it feel like he can shoot? Not really. And in a league where more and more it is hard to get away with that on the floor. I still think there is a lot there to like and it’s still too early to be totally discouraged by what you’ve seen thus far.”

On Jamal Murray

“I actually called him at Kentucky last year and was impressed with his demeanor, and the way he was able to thrive off ball at Kentucky and then be incredibly effective in the pick and roll as well. I think if you look at just the end of last game, where he was struggling having one of his...against Miami, I believe he had just three points going into the 4th quarter and there he is at the end of the game being totally willing to be the guy taking the shot. And he hits two threes and then he ends up getting blocked on that drive by Whiteside. But, to me, that shows you the kind of confidence that he has right now.

I think he can flat out shoot which is incrediby valuable. I think that even though he might not be the most highly touted individual defenders, he can defend within team concepts. And I like his moxy. I like his confidence. I like the fact that he’s played internationally. I think that gives guys a different level of experience and expectations heading into the NBA. And so all of those things make me think that he can really play.”