Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay turning heads in practice
DENVER (AP) One practice in and Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is already talking titles.
An NBA Summer League crown, anyway. Got to love rookies.
New coach Michael Malone certainly does - especially this one. Mudiay, the seventh overall pick in the draft last month, already is forming quite a bond with his coach, who flat-out told Mudiay that this was his team.
This summer in Las Vegas, he meant, when the younger players on the Nuggets gain some experience. Who knows? Maybe that extends into the regular season as well. By taking Mudiay, the Nuggets created a log jam at point guard, which only increases the speculation that Ty Lawson may soon be moved.
So far, the 19-year-old Mudiay has done all the right things, such as staying in town to work on his game and asking questions - lots and lots questions.
''I love his curiosity. A very inquisitive young man,'' Malone said after practice with the younger players Monday. ''When you speak to him, you don't think you're talking to a 19-year-old. He's wise beyond his years.''
Mudiay was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1996, and his father died when he was young. His mother moved to Arlington, Texas, in 2001 to establish a life away from the violence in the Congo. Mudiay and his brothers followed a year later, when he was 6.
A standout player in high school, he was set to go to Southern Methodist University. But he decided to play professionally in the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 18 points and six assists for the Guangdong Southern Tigers last season.
Many don't know his name, much less his game. That's fine with him.
''Everybody, they're sleeping on me, I guess you could say,'' the 6-foot-5 Mudiay said. ''Let them keep sleeping. I'm going to go out there and just play my game.''
On Monday, Mudiay participated in full-court, five-on-five hoops for the first time since March. Felt good to run the floor again, even in the thin air of the Mile High City.
He stood out, too.
''Some of the passes he made today?'' Malone said, shaking his head. ''He makes the game very simple. He finds the open man and makes everyone around him better.''
As for his jumper? Well, he's still honing his touch. As some of his teammates retreated to the locker room, Mudiay launched extra 3-pointers.
''The more repetitions I get, the more comfortable I'll get with it,'' he said.
Mudiay said he hasn't spoken with Lawson yet. But he has communicated with forward Wilson Chandler and guard Jameer Nelson, who was acquired by the team last season in a deal with Boston and is currently an unrestricted free agent.
''I told (Jameer) and Wilson, `Lead me and show me the way,''' Mudiay said. ''I'm going to try to learn as much as I can from the vets.''
This summer, Mudiay joins a roster that includes Gary Harris, Erick Green and Joffrey Lauvergne, who all saw time for Denver last season. The summer squad also features a few players who are hoping the Nuggets will invite them to training camp.
''My job is to give everybody confidence as a point guard,'' Mudiay said. ''You want to make everyone feel like they can make the team, be on the NBA team, by being positive. That's going to bring the best out of them.''
NOTES: Malone said assistant coach Micah Nori will coach the summer league team. ... In addition to Nori, Malone's coaching staff next season includes Ed Pinckney, Wes Unseld Jr., Dee Brown, Ryan Bowen and Chris Fleming, the coach of the German national team. Malone said Fleming will not be with the team this summer because of his commitments to Germany for the 2015 EuroBasket tournament.