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Michael Malone: “we have to take pride in defense this year”

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The Denver Nuggets head coach knows the team needs to be a little more defensive.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

During an interview with Vic Lombardi on AM 950 prior to today’s Media Day festivities, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone provided his vision for the team during training camp and going into the season.

“Defense kept me up the whole summer,” Malone admitted to Lombardi. “As great as our offense was, our defense was that bad.

“My message to our team going into camp...everyone has to buy in. Everyone has to commit, and we have to be a lot better and take more pride in our defense this year.”

The Nuggets as a whole ranked 29th in the NBA with a 110.5 defensive rating last season. When star center Nikola Jokic was reinserted into the starting lineup on December 15th of last season, that number grew to a 111.9 defensive rating, by far the worst in the NBA. The offense was one of the best in the NBA during that span as well, with a league leading 113.3 offensive rating after December 15th, but Malone emphasized that offense wouldn’t be enough to help Denver make the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.

“Offense is great, but until we defend...we won’t be a playoff team this year,” said Malone.

The addition of Paul Millsap is a welcome one. Millsap helped captain one of the best defenses in the NBA last year with the Atlanta Hawks. The 103.1 defensive rating for Millsap’s old squad ranked as the fourth best in the entire NBA, and the Nuggets are hoping he brings a steadying hand to the defense this season.

“When you add a two-time All-Defensive player in Paul Millsap, that will help, but we can’t put all the onus on that signing to get better.”

It was clear that defense would be a focus going into camp. Malone is sending the message early that taking pride in defense will be a huge point of emphasis this year, as it could be the difference between Denver’s first playoff birth in five years or a another disappointing season.

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