In the locker of Jerami Grant, there is a picture of Juancho Hernangomez that reads, “Let it fly my G.” Grant’s locker mate directly to his left is none other than Hernangomez, who gifted Grant that image to remind him, well, to keep shooting.
The definition of a great teammate is someone who supports and helps you even when things might not be going as planned. Hernangomez is the very definition of a great teammate. Has he played the amount of minutes he would like to this season? Certainly not. Has that altered the way he carries himself? Not in any way.
The little things in life are something that can go a long way, and Hernangomez is someone who excels in that department. From sharing encouraging words to showcasing an always glowing grin, Hernangomez is the same guy no matter what is going on around him. He is a teammate that everyone in the locker room raves about, and he just so happens to be pretty good at basketball.
To begin the season, Hernangomez was not in the Nuggets rotation, but that changed rapidly over the first 10 games. It all started last Thursday night when Michael Malone decided to insert Hernangomez back into the rotation. As the first small forward off the bench, Hernangomez brought an infectious energy the Nuggets had been missing to start the year, doubling his season minute total and doing exactly what Denver needed him to do—play hard. He hauled in eight rebounds against the Nets, a prime example of his hustle and drive to keep plays alive.
“I thought Juancho was a difference maker tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the Brooklyn win. “I give Juancho so much credit. He had not played in the first 10 games. I wanted too throw him out there knowing he would provide a spark and energy.”
“With Juancho, he might make a mistake, he might be only 1-of-4 from the field, but he plays hard and you can not put a dollar sign on that.”
Fast forward to Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies and Hernangomez was at it again. In the Nuggets 131-114 win over Memphis, Hernangomez played his best game of the year, scoring 15 points on a near perfect 5-of-6 shooting from the field, 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line.
Hernangomez played a season-high 28 minutes against the Grizzles and should be in line for more minutes going forward. He has certainly earned them as Hernangomez has taken advantage of the opportunity Malone provided him over the past week.
“I love Juancho. Here is a guy that has helped us win games. This is his fourth year — he was a starter last year with injuries — he has helped us win a lot of games. He had an unbelievable summer, wins a gold medal, comes back wants to play and is not in the rotation. What I love about Juancho is not once, even though it was killing him inside, did he ever feel sorry for himself, did he ever stop working, that is not in his nature, he wasn’t raised that way,” Malone said after the Brooklyn game. “So, I applaud him and that is why I knew he’d stay ready. I knew when I called on him tonight, I don’t know if he is going to make his shot, but I knew he would go out there and give tremendous effort and that is why I wanted him out there. Just to give a little bit of life, little bit of juice, and he provided exactly that.”
Juice is undoubtedly what Hernangomez provides when on the court, and that is why Nuggets fans enjoy his style of play so much. Not only is Hernangomez always giving it 100 percent, but he truly does love this team and the city of Denver.
“I love this city. I love the fans. I love the chemistry we got,” Hernangomez said after the Nets games.
In the two games Hernangomez has been apart of the rotation, Denver is 2-0 and their offense seems to have found its rhythm. The second unit appears to be on the mend as well after struggling to start the year. What Hernangomez provides the bench unit with knockdown shooting ability, length, and most importantly another solid rebounder on both ends of the floor.
Hernangomez has opened the season on fire from three-point range as he is currently 5-of-11 from distance on the season. A small sample size to be sure, but improving on his 36.5 percent he shot from three last season would give the rotation a major boost.
That could have a lot to do with his health as Hernangomez finally appears healthy for the first time in a long time. Two season ago, he played in just 25 games as mononucleosis derailed his season before it could ever begin. Last season, Hernangomez fought through a core injury that required surgery at the end of the year. Now, we are finally seeing the healthy side of Juancho, something we have not seen in a really long time.
It is great to see such hard work and positive mental outlook paying off for Juancho and the Nuggets so far. Hernangomez has had a lasting impact on the Nuggets success in the locker room. Now, let’s see if he can continue boosting the Nuggets on the floor.