New coach, rookie point guard energize Nuggets
DENVER (AP) The Denver Nuggets have a completely new look on the floor this season - pick axes across both lanes and a mountain peak logo near half-court.
A court redesign to match their revamped roster.
After missing the postseason for a second straight year, the Nuggets brought in no-nonsense coach Michael Malone and drafted point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. They traded Ty Lawson to Houston, kept around some savvy veterans and told Kenneth Faried to transform into the ''Manimal'' again, using his high-energy motor to rev up the crowd and his teammates.
Oh yeah, the Nuggets also decided to return to their running ways since they have elevation working in their favor.
''I believe we have a chance to make the playoffs this year,'' Faried said. ''I 100 percent believe that - 110 percent. I don't care what anybody has to stay about it.''
The players are certainly seeing a much clearer picture with Malone taking over for Brian Shaw. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler signed extensions to stick around, while Darrell Arthur could've possibly joined the Los Angeles Clippers, but elected to stay in the Mile High City.
''We know what this team is capable of and we've got the right players on paper,'' Arthur said. ''Just a matter of putting everything together.''
That's the job of Malone and his young point guard Mudiay, who was the seventh overall pick in June. It's his team to run, even if he is 19 years old.
''I love challenges,'' said Mudiay, who bypassed college to spend last year playing pro ball in China. ''My team gives me a lot of confidence and has a lot of trust in me.''
After only a few practices, Gallinari reached this realization: Mudiay is good enough to be the rookie of the year.
''He has very good point guard instincts,'' Gallinari said. ''The more games he plays, the more he can help the team.''
Steady progress. That's all Malone is hoping for out of Mudiay and his team.
''Whether we play in Denver or in Fiji, just want to get out there and try to get better,'' Malone said. ''We have to build up our fan base and get them back to being excited about the Nuggets.
''Hopefully we can show them it's worth coming out to watch the Nuggets.''
Here are things to know as the Nuggets try to rebound this season:
DIET RIGHT: Big man Nikola Jokic eats six meals a day, but slimmed down 30 pounds by cutting out soda and sweets from his diet. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, the 41st pick of the 2014 draft has a chance to be an impactful player for the Nuggets this season. ''You put that work ethic, with the fact he's that young, that skilled, very smart, high IQ player, he does have a chance to be a special player,'' Malone said.
BONDING OVER PAINT BALL: By all accounts, backup point guard Jameer Nelson's get-together for his teammates in Philadelphia over the summer was a huge hit. The players bonded over hoops, paint ball and video games. ''Just a good experience to hang with all the new guys and get to know them,'' Arthur said.
MONITORING MILLER: Malone will keep a close watch on how many minutes 15-year veteran Mike Miller plays early in the season. ''He was brought in here to be a leader, to be an example,'' Malone said. ''At the same time, he still has basketball in him. It's up to me to find the way to use him and the right minutes and right position to use him.''
STRIKE: Turns out, basketball isn't the only thing right up Faried's alley. He's a mean bowler and touts a 175 average. His best score? 260. No thoughts of jumping to the PBA, though. He'll stick with driving down the lane.
FEELING OLD: As a fifth-grader in Dallas, Mudiay used to watch high school games involving some of the city's elite players. One of those was Arthur. When that tale was relayed back to him, Arthur just shook his head. ''I'm old,'' the 27-year-old said.