The Denver Nuggets traveled home late in the evening on Wednesday after an impressive road win against the Houston Rockets in their season opener, arriving in Denver well after midnight. The team scheduled practice for 11:00 am MT the following day and, as has often been the case in this young season, the practice lasted a full two hours. But despite the fairly long practice on relatively short rest, Emmanuel Mudiay remained on the main court for a half hour after everyone else had left, getting shots up with Ed Pinckney and a few other members of the Nuggets training staff in front of 19,155 empty seats that will (hopefully) be Mudiay’s home floor for many years to come.

It was quite a sight to see the 19-year-old face of the franchise working hard in the empty arena. He pushed himself hard enough to build a sweat through his high-tech Catapult training vest, a vest designed to monitor the young point guard's workload and help keep Mudiay from pushing his body too far. As the media members gladly waited for Mudiay to finish his post-practice shooting workout, it became clear that no high-tech vest is going to keep him from pushing himself as hard as he can.

"Another day, another day" he says as he walks over to the half dozen reporters waiting for him near the first row of seats on the sideline. "Rise and grind?" asks one reporter, laughing as the exhausted teenage star wipes some sweat off of his face. Almost expressionless, Mudiay just says "Yup."

Mudiay has an understated way about him. He seems incredibly unfazed by his own stardom, unimpressed with his success so far, and undeterred by the adversity he's facing as a teenager tasked with leading a team through a league filled with giant-sized grown men.

“I just want to win as many championships as I can,” Mudiay told Denver media members via a phone conference, just moments after being selected by the Nuggets with the 7th overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

As many championships as I can? As in plural? Multiple championships? Who does this kid think he is? Does he realize that the Nuggets only won 30 games last year? Or that the franchise has never even made an NBA finals?

The words read poorly on paper but hearing them come out of his mouth sound a lot different than it did the countless times it has been uttered by players that have come before him. There's a shyness in his voice that reveal the humility behind his confidence. It's less of a chest-thumping brashness and more of an unrelenting determination.

This content is no longer available.

As the excitement around the new-look Nuggets starts to awaken fans from a 2-year, blowout loss-induced slumber, Mudiay admitted that he doesn't know what to expect in tonight's home opener.

"I hope this thing is rocking," he says with a smile when asked about his excitement for his first chance to play in front of the home crowd. That smile, the first of the day, quickly faded as he thought about the empty arena in the team's sole game at Pepsi Center.

“Cause you know… I think we played the Phoenix Suns (in preseason) here, I looked, and I told some of my teammates, ‘man I gotta change this. We gotta change this.’ Cause, we gotta get it back to, you know, the Melo days. I used to watch on TV as a kid, I used to think this was probably the loudest arena. We gotta get it back to that.”

The "change" he was referring to was the mountain of empty seats at Pepsi Center and the clear lack of excitement among the few fans in attendance. Last season, the Nuggets ranked 28th in attendance per game and 27th in percent of capacity. And for good reason. Last year's team was un-watchable and certainly not worthy of the casual fans support. There are only so many times a fanbase can pay hard-earned money to watch their team fall behind by 15 points at halftime, as the Nuggets did last season on several occasions.

A month ago at media day, after having spent several weeks in Denver as part of the summer league mini-camp and for workouts with the coaching staff, Mudiay was asked what impressions he had of the city.

“I haven’t seen too much. I know I went to Red Rock. [sic] I ran up there with Steve Hess… I checked out the mall, Cherry Creek.” It was clear talking to him that he hadn’t really ventured out very much. The only place he’d spent his free time was inside the walls of Pepsi Center. Putting up shots, lifting weights, running stairs, watching film and studying game concepts with Michael Malone.

Mudiay has spent a lot of hours inside those walls. It's finally time for Nuggets fans to come out and join him.

This content is no longer available.