“I showed 13 clips today,” Michael Malone told the media shortly after the Denver Nuggets concluded practice Monday morning. “And I told the guys before we watched—if anybody in here is sensitive, get up and leave now. It was very open, very honest, very direct about what a bad shot is, what a bad turnover is, and what selfish basketball looks like.”
While Malone has made it clear the neither he nor anyone on his staff is panicking after a rough stretch, he spent Monday’s media availability making it clear that his players’ approach since the All-Star break isn’t going to cut it.
The Nuggets are 6-4 in their last ten games, but uncharacteristically disjointed performances against Utah and Golden State have left a small cloud hovering over this team. They don’t look quite like themselves and their head coach lamented their shot selection, implying heavily that it’s been poisoned by selfish basketball.
“No, I don’t think it’s any (external factor),” Malone responded quickly when asked if the two-seed Nuggets now have a target on their back. “I think it’s us getting away from playing the way we’ve played all season long.”
Since training camp began in late September, Malone has been preaching a message of togetherness, insisting that this team plays at their best when they’re playing for the right reasons.
“This team doesn’t just play with each other,” Malone told the media in San Diego. “They play for each other.”
We’ve heard that latter phrase countless times in the 2018-19 campaign, and Denver’s inability to play their brand of basketball was the theme of both Monday’s practice and media session.
“We watched film, talked about where we are, talked about what’s in front of us,” Malone told reporters when asked to summarize the day’s efforts. “Then (we) came up here, got up-and-down, played some five-on-five, and really stressed ball movement, drive-and-kick, playing for each other and getting back to being that unselfish team—which is when we are at our best.”
The Nuggets have a bit of a runway ahead of them as they seek to level out before the real test begins, but their head coach made it clear that they won’t enter the playoffs in peak form if they don’t amend their approach.
Denver must get back to playing Nuggets basketball. They must get back to playing for each other.