President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and head coach Michael Malone sat down on Media Day to set expectations for the Denver Nuggets this season and answer questions about the roster and outlook going forward for a team that is now expected to be a playoff team - if they are willing to sacrifice to be there.
Malone: "The pain (of missing the playoffs) is motivation. We have to have more maturity. Some guys are going to have to sacrifice. We're going to see how much they're willing to sacrifice and work to be a team that makes the playoffs."— Denver Stiffs (@denverstiffs) September 24, 2018
Some notes from that dual interview:
- “The way [Gary Harris] views himself and he views our team” is something Denver appreciates. They would like Gary Harris to become a leader, and for Harris, Jokic and Murray to all find their voice with this team. They would like to see Denver’s young core also be its vocal core.
- “Nikola’s our best player...he is the centerpiece of all that we do.” Malone underlined that Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA and finding the confidence and swagger to be not one of the best players but a franchise player. The fact that he “only cares about team success” is vital to Denver’s future. They also talked about how unchanged he is by the life-changing money he received this offseason.
- “Our depth is still amongst one of the best in the league... we have good versatility.” Despite the trades this offseason that cleared out some players Denver still feels good about the players they have on the roster and feel like they “cleaned things up” from a rotation perspective. “We have so many guys who are young, hungry, hard-working and ready for the opportunity.”
- Isaiah Thomas and his health status: “We’re not concerned about running him out there... we’ll be especially conservative with Isaiah.” Michael Malone reiterated that Jamal Murray is “Denver’s starter today, and he’s our starter going forward.” But Malone talked up the hunger and passion and leadership that Thomas brings.
- Defensive expectations: “We can’t get much worse,” said Malone. But he talked up a healthy Paul Millsap and Will Barton’s commitment. Malone was okay with Denver’s 19th rating through February, and talked about improving their three-point defense, and their live-ball turnovers and points off turnovers. He believes they should be able to make “a considerable jump” in defensive rating.
- Michael Porter Jr. is also not going to be rushed, and Jarred Vanderbilt is “out of the boot” but not yet back to resuming basketball activities. Denver will be cautious with both of their injured-but-talented rookies.
This is not even half of what was discussed in this 35 minute interview. There was a lot to talk about in this media scrum (and believe us, we will). Please see the video of the interview below!
And here’s just the audio: