Nuggets coach Mike Malone called out his team after a loss to the Pelicans on Thursday night in New Orleans.
"I'm embarrassed," Malone told reporters after the 122–107 loss, per ESPN. "That was an embarrassing effort defensively. Gave up 37 fast-break points. You can give all the transition defense rules that you want. To me, transition defense boils down to one thing–effort. Get back. You can tell them. You can lead a horse to water, whatever analogy you want to use. We did not get back."
The Pelicans scored 20 fast-break points in the first 15 minutes before finishing with 37 in their first win of the season.
In the fourth quarter, Malone pulled four starters after the Pelicans' Jahlil Okafor converted a steal into an open layup. Malone emptied the rest of the bench two minutes later.
"I thought tonight was a disappointing, embarrassing effort. I thought guys off the bench played hard, gave effort," Malone said. "We gotta find ways to get our starters to play the same way because they're not playing like that right now. They're just not."
The Nuggets finished last season with a 54–28 record and reached the Western Conference Semifinals. Despite hopes to keep the momentum going this season, Malone said it hasn't happened yet and called out his team to rise to the challenge.
"We're a great talk team. We can talk before the season starts about all the things we want to accomplish, and we want to be a contending team," Malone said. "It's all bulls---. Don't tell me about it, show me. And right now we've got a lot of guys that aren't showing me much."