In a sometimes-humorous and occasionally-serious media day interview, Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari dropped some very frank words about the veterans on this team. When asked how important it was for the older guys to influence the younger ones, Gallinari responded:
"It's crucial. That's one of the reasons we get paid good money...to be good veterans. Honestly I've been on different teams with different teammates, and the young guys on this team have to understand they're lucky to have the veterans that they got. Because it's not that easy and the veterans [in other places] are not all good guys as we are. We make it very easy for them. But we are excited to be a role model for them."
Gallinari played for the New York Knicks for the first two and a half years of his career but has also played in Europe and on international squads. Whichever veterans he was referencing as poor teammates (perhaps even the Denver squad from a few seasons ago) he was very specific about the quality of the veterans here from a leadership perspective.
That should not be a surprise. Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly has spent the last couple of years making sure that whatever bad eggs were on the roster disappeared, and that every effort was made to keep and attract the good teammates that a young roster requires to flourish.
Jameer Nelson bristled a bit in his media day interview about being a mentor, but that doesn't negate the fact that he has been. His paintball getaway to set the tone last offseason and bond with the young players was just one example of the good veteran leadership on the team.
Mike Miller was brought in to help set expectations and a positive tone as well as drain the occasional three (and helping to fix Mudiay's jumpshot was just a bonus). The young guys have gotten to experience Wilson Chandler's incomparable work ethic in rehab, and Gallinari's daily drive to win. They know that Gallo, Darrell Arthur and Jameer Nelson all passed up chances to leave Denver because they believe that Denver is a place worth staying, and that the team being built is worth being a part of.
While other young teams like the Sixers and Lakers have had problems with leaked private videos and public altercations from their young keystones, the Nuggets have kept it very quiet off the court. Denver's veterans might like to catch some fish, but they don't make headlines catching trouble. This team no longer has a Ty Lawson partying his way through a season, and Connelly has invested time and money to keep it that way.
Denver houses another team with a bit more title success than the Nuggets, and the Denver Broncos have set their team up much the same way. There are worse things to do than follow the lead of the champions ahead of you. From an ESPN article after the Broncos' 3-0 start with a first-year starter at quarterback and a bunch of young players getting minutes on a defending champion:
"This team is different that way," said linebacker Brandon Marshall. "I've been on another team and I know a lot of guys who play for other teams, and sometimes the older guys don't want to help you. Maybe they don't really talk to you, or they just answer questions with one- or two-word answers. That's not what we're about here. That's not how we do it in this locker room, and I think it shows up on the field."
This is one way being different can really pay dividends, especially on a roster as young as the one the Nuggets will run out on the court for real games a month from now. The Nuggets have a good veteran base that has both talent and the willingness to help the next generation of Nuggets reach their potential.
Of all the items to come out of media day, that's one of the most promising.