Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay anxious to get the season started
Going up for a layup against his older brothers as a kid? Now that was daunting for the Denver Nuggets point guard. The siblings used to play cage basketball, where they closed the door on the condensed court and anything went - including a hard shove into a steel fence.
''Definitely got some bruises,'' Mudiay recounted Monday, a day before training camp began in Colorado Springs, Colorado. ''It was fun. Competing is fun. I just want to have fun. If you have fun, everything else will take care of itself.''
Mudiay already has his mind on titles. Ah, rookies.
But that's just the way he thinks, even if the Nuggets are coming off a 30-52 season in which they fired Brian Shaw and traded talented but troubled point guard Ty Lawson to Houston.
''When I set my mind to something, I feel like it can be accomplished,'' said the 19-year-old Mudiay, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. ''I feel like my career is not going to be the same if I don't win a championship.''
Not only do the Nuggets boast an energetic teenager, they also have a no-nonsense coach in Michael Malone, who's impressed by his point guard's vision and feel for the game.
''There are going to be nights when we walk out of the gym and we'll say, `Wow, how did he fall to seventh (in the draft)? He was the best player on the floor tonight,''' Malone said. ''There will be other nights, where we'll say, `He looked like a rookie.' We expect that. We're not going to put too much pressure on Emmanuel.''
Mudiay showed glimpses of his playmaking ability as he averaged 12 points and 5.8 assists a game during Summer League in Las Vegas. He also struggled at times with his jumper.
''There are great examples of teams giving the ball to a young point guard - let him grow through those mistakes,'' Malone said. ''Experience is the best teacher. We're going to give Emmanuel that experience.''
Most of the Nuggets have been diligently working out together all month at the facility.
''That means there's a buy-in,'' Malone said. ''They're committed. They want to be an active participant in turning this team around, from being a lottery team to a team that can be a competitive Western Conference team.''
Backup point guard Jameer Nelson helped bring this team together by inviting everyone to Philadelphia in August, just to spend some quality time together. Those who could make it worked out, attended a Phillies game and played paint ball.
''Just getting the guys together, developing a bond and doing things together in the offseason,'' Nelson explained. ''Once the season starts, things become easier and second nature.''
It didn't end well last year for Denver and may be best remembered for a ''1-2-3 ... Six weeks'' chant - interpreted by some as a countdown to the end of a bitter season.
''Certainly last year our on-court success was unacceptable. A lot of that was, quite frankly, due to a lack of a strong culture at times,'' Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. ''I also think we have some really good veterans, pros who unfairly got cast in that negative light last year.''
NOTES: Center Jusuf Nurkic isn't expected to be ready to start the season after having surgery to fix a torn left patellar tendon in May. ''I don't want to come back in a hurry and get hurt again,'' Nurkic said. ... Forward Kenneth Faried expects to make the Team USA roster for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. ''I believe in myself,'' he said.