With the completion of media day and training camp under way, some of the Denver Stiffs staff sat down to answer some questions they have about the Nuggets.
What was your favorite part of media day?
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): Media day always reminds me of that scene in season 4 of THE WIRE. "I love the first day of school. Everyone's all friendly..." Media day is like the first day of school and all of the players are happy, excited, optimistic, and especially friendly with the media. Even though 90% of what is said is an extreme exaggeration, it's still fun to see all the players and reporters again and see everybody happy and optimistic.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Drop that Wire knowledge on us, Adam. Some media days feel like old hat, and some of them feel like the first thaw of Spring. Aside from Jameer Nelson, all the interviews on media day had some degree of delight to them. This day wasn't nearly as defensive as last year's, and nobody had to make a slogan about it being a new day. The rotten pages of the book have been turned, and everyone is so damn happy to get the season started that it hypes me up even more.
Ryan Blackburn (@RyanBlackburn9): The clear answer for me is that the next stage in this team's development is finally here. For a long time, Nuggets fans have heard from the organization about the great assets and moves the team has made to be in this position. Now, expectations are starting to creep in, and players have repeatedly said that playoffs are on their mind. While that may be a bit of a stretch at this point in the development curve, improvement in some way, shape, or form is mandatory. This was made clear throughout the media day process, and it got me pumped.
Evan Fiala (@eefiala): Of course my favorite part of media day is that it marks the beginning of the season. I think I'm more excited about the future of this team than I have been at any point in the recent past and the bond that all the players have (especially the rookies) is awesome to see. Malik Beasley's Facebook Live video demonstrated how close these guys are and how much fun they can have while also putting the work in to get better. I can't wait to see it translate to the court.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): My favorite part of media day is the "so and so gained/lost x amount of weight during the offseason." I'm taking college classes, and I had the summer off. None of my teachers asked me about my workout results over the summer, and to be honest, I'm a little disappointed. Every player has either bulked up if they were skinny or lost weight if they were too heavy. None of them say "Oh I was out at the club with my friends a few times and I skipped leg days for a month" like they don't have a SnapChat and we've been able to see what they're up to. I love #musclewatch updates.
Emmanuel Mudiay responded that "(he) was the alpha" when asked if the team had an alpha personality on the roster. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
Mares: I kind of agree. Mudiay isn't the alpha just yet but I think he has the temperament, skill, and attitude to become the alpha on this team, even if he isn't the best player on the roster. Last year he very much seemed like the 19 year old who didn't know where he belonged on a team of grown men. At summer league and yesterday at media day, Mudiay looked like a guy that is much more comfortable as the leader of the team.
Gross: I'm gonna have to listen to that interview again, because I didn't think Mudiay was saying he was the alpha of this team right now, just that he was an alpha-type player. It will be Mudiay's team to lead, and he looked worlds more comfortable at this media day than the last one. I think he's absolutely going to be an alpha player if the Nuggets are going to make this whole thing work.
Blackburn: Adam and Zach touched on Mudiay's quiet nature in the Pickaxe Podcast (a great listen), but it was clear from Mudiay's mannerisms and statements that he grew a lot last year. At least personality wise. Last year, he did struggle deferring to Danilo Gallinari, Jameer Nelson, and D.J. Augustin at times, but it's possible that his time spent with Chauncey Billups over the summer helped give him some confidence. He looks the part of an alpha player IN MEDIA DAY, but let's just see what happens on the court before declaring it one way or the other.
Fiala: I think he's definitely on his way to being the alpha player of this team. In the interview he seemed a lot more confident in himself and the role he knows he needs to embrace as point guard, so I'm fully expecting him to step up. For a Nuggets team that in the past never really had any vocal leadership (I'm looking at you, Ty Lawson) his ability and willingness to do so should be a welcome sight for both the team and fans.
Lewis: I agree that Mudiay needs to become the alpha player for the Nuggets. It was nice to watch Nikola Jokic do so well last season, but in my opinion, if the Nuggets want to be a top-10 team in the league, Mudiay needs to be as good if not better than Jokic is. He can be the player that pushes the team into contender status, and he has to do a lot of work to get there. I hope he can accomplish that task.
Michael Malone didn't share which player would be the starting PF - what would be your answer if you were head coach? Is the starter on the roster?
Mares: A week ago I would've said Kenneth Faried because the thought of asking Faried to come off of the bench seemed unthinkable. But I love that Malone is (seemingly) willing to ruffle some feathers and make that spot open to competition. Darrell is the only realistic choice, in my opinion, to start ahead of Faried. However, my favorite lineup will be Gallo at power forward with Wilson Chandler at small forward which I hope the Nuggets use to close out games more often than not.
Gross: I was absolutely positive it would be Faried, even though Denver was rumored to have been hunting Millsap on the trade market this summer before Horford left the ATL instead. If you don't land the big game then you play the best you've got, and Faried is the best PF Denver currently has. Faried not being made available to the media as ostensibly the best-known face of the franchise raised my eyebrows as well, because Faried would certainly have had something to say about it. Like Adam, I'm hoping to see Chandler and Gallo play next to each other for stretches and it would be interesting to see them start games together. With Arthur injured and Juancho playing his first stateside minutes, I now have no idea what Malone sees as the best feasible starting 5. That alone is interesting to me.
Blackburn: If I were the coach, I would tell the media that Player A will be the starter going into training camp, but Player A still has to earn his position going forward. Considering that the Nuggets don't have a superstar, nobody should be penciled into the starting lineup, but it doesn't mean that a coach shouldn't have ideas. If I were Malone, I would have gone with Faried initially, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Faried will be the starter in a week. In my opinion, the starter will be Faried going into the year, but I believe the starter at power forward going forward is not on the roster.
Fiala: On paper it just makes sense for it to be Faried, but Malone's unwillingness to just say outright that it's him makes me think otherwise. The next viable option is Darrell Arthur of course, but his injury could be throwing the whole thing in a loop as well. If Arthur is healthy, I wouldn't mind seeing him start to provide a bit more spacing and defense with Faried coming off the bench. It's a sentiment that's been beaten to death, but if Faried embraced a bench role and came in as the energy guy with the second unit he would be a legitimate Sixth Man candidate.
Lewis: This certainly has to give hope to fans who want to see the "Jurkic" (Jokic-Nurkic) frontcourt, but I want to see Darrell Arthur start. He's a better defender than Faried, and he is more versatile on offense. Arthur has never played more than 21.7 minutes per game, and I don't think he necessarily has to play more than 25 minutes a game anyways. The Nuggets can start DA, have Faried be the first big off the bench to help form the bridge between the starters and reserves at the end and beginning of each quarter. On nights when Faried's energy helps the Nuggets gain an edge, he can stay on the court. On other nights, when the team may need a power forward that can spread the floor and defend, give Arthur more minutes. They're already going to play Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari at power forward anyways - just make it a "power forward by committee" and play matchups, but start games with Arthur.
Josh Kroenke said that the team is planning on establishing a D-League team "in the next couple of years." Write Josh a pitch for a city and team name.
Mares: Stiffs hall of famer, Nate Timmons, once said I was the worst ever at creating a hypothetical D-league team name. But I kinda like the Trout. I'm a huge fan of off-beat team names. For example, I LOVE The Pelicans. It's specific to the city/region and really different than your typical, Bears, Lions, Eagles that is common and boring. The ABA had the Conquistadors, the Spirts, Amigos, the Hustlers, and other cool names. The Trout isn't exactly fierce but it is somewhat synonymous with the Rocky Mountains and it would be easy to tie in the Rainbow color scheme of those classic Nuggets jerseys.
Gross: I'd still put it in Colorado Springs. The Springs is higher than Denver so the players will be used to the thin air, and call-ups are VERY close at hand if necessary. The Springs doesn't have a minor league baseball team any more (they Sky Sox are moving to San Antonio, though a Pioneer League team might replace them) and is a pretty large city to be lacking in even minor-league sports. As for a name, I'd keep the sky idea: can any D-League team be better married to Nuggets history and amazing merchandising than the Colorado Springs Skywalkers? Somebody work that out with Disney, because David Thompson's nickname deserves a team.
Blackburn: Colorado Springs feels like a great place given the close proximity to Denver. I wish there was some way to have a team deep in the mountains, but nothing about that feels viable. Omaha makes sense too, but if I were pitching to the KSE, I would go with the Colorado Springs Mountain Lions. How could it be anything but something pertaining to the altitude?! It has the word ‘Mountain' and lions are ferocious.
Fiala: I'm a big believer in finding team names that are relevant to the local culture, so here's my longshot pitch for a team: The Rocky Mountain Oysters. Just think of the marketing possibilities! In all seriousness, I think a team in Colorado Springs would make the most sense. It's right down the road from Denver so it would actually have the "feel" of being a part of the Nuggets organization still, and it's a big enough of a city to have it's own fan base. I would embrace it 100%, even if the awesome name doesn't stick.
Lewis: The Grand Junction Peaches! The St. Elmo Ghosts! The Fort Collins Steers! In all seriousness, the most logical destination for a D-League team is Colorado Springs. Grand Junction and Cheyenne are too small, Boulder and Fort Collins are too close, and Lincoln, Omaha, Wichita, and Sioux Falls are too far away. Colorado Springs already has a good population of athletes with the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy, and the players still get to train at altitude. The team name I'd suggest is the Colorado Springs Seraphs - it's more intimidating than Cherubs, and it's not a fish. Can't have the franchise team names be a rock and a fish, come on.
What position battles are you expecting during training camp?
Mares: Aside from a potential power forward spot that is up for grabs, I think backup minutes at point guard and shooting guard will be interesting. Nate Wolters is fighting to make the team despite Jamal Muray and Jameer Nelson being potential backup PG options. Jamal will also be competing with Malik Beasley and WIll Barton for backup SG minutes.
Gross: I suppose that depends on what happens with this PF power grab. If Gallo or Chandler (or both) will play a bunch of minutes at the 4 this year that frees time at the 3 for Barton, which gives time at backup SG for both Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley to fight over. If Murray can't handle the point yet then that's where most of his minutes would come from, and I don't expect Beasley to concede anything to anyone. That could be fun. Other than that, the Battle Royale for the 15th spot should provide some interest as the season approaches, even if none of those contestants are likely to get big minutes on this team.
Blackburn: I think the rotation battle at power forward will end quickly and Faried will be the starter personally. After that, backup point guard with Nelson, Murray, and possibly Wolters will be fun. What I'm most interested in though won't be who starts, but who finishes. Assumably, Mudiay and Gallinari will be in that group, but beyond that, there are no guarantees of who is on the floor. I would like to see Harris, Chandler, and Jokic in that group, but I have a feeling whatever lineup Malone utilizes will involve three guards, Gallo, and Darrell Arthur.
Fiala: After Malone's presser the battle at PF will be the big one to keep an eye on, but I'm also very intrigued at where Jamal Murray will end up at on the depth chart. Obviously Mudiay and Harris will be the starting guards, but from there it can go a few different ways. Jameer Nelson has been adamant on getting playing time and not being solely a mentor, and Will Barton has proven to be a key bench player which could make it hard to justify him losing minutes. Regardless, one of those two will have to sacrifice for Murray's development.
Lewis: The power forward competition has already been touched on - I'm curious to see what happens at shooting guard. Malone has been vocal that Gary Harris is the starter, but who is up next? Will Barton deserves minutes after his play last season, and he can get them at either the 2 or the 3. Will Jamal Murray play his way into the rotation during training camp? Will it take until the All-Star break for Murray to crack the rotation? The Nuggets future seems to be a backcourt of Mudiay-Harris-Murray-Beasley and I'm curious when Nuggets fans will get to see that rotation in action.