Afflalo believes Nuggets can compete for title in his return to Denver

Veteran guard expanded game, confidence during two years in Orlando
by Aaron Lopez

The desire to succeed has always coursed through Arron Afflalo’s bloodstream.

After missing the playoffs during two seasons in Orlando, the veteran shooting guard is not tempering his expectations as he prepares for his second go-round with the Denver Nuggets.

“I’ll be blunt,” Afflalo said Friday. “I believe this is a championship team. It’s hard for the casual fan to fathom that because you don’t see big-market stars. Basketball is a team game. Good players win you games.

“To have a team that I feel is pretty much 2-deep at every position in talent and experience and hunger to compete and prove themselves as players, I think this is a team with the caliber to make a run for a title.”

Afflalo will continue his pursuit of an NBA championship in Denver after the Nuggets acquired him for guard Evan Fournier and the rights to the 56th pick (Roy Devyn Marble) in Thursday night’s draft.

Afflalo’s name had been mentioned in trade rumors, but he didn’t necessarily think Denver was a potential destination.

“I was extremely happy,” he said. “For me, I already know the city itself. I’m very comfortable coming back. It fees like home in terms of my NBA career.”

Afflalo played modest minutes during his first two NBA seasons in Detroit, but his career took off after being traded to Denver in 2009. He averaged 11.9 points in three seasons with the Nuggets, improving his scoring each year while also excelling at the defensive end.

“He’s a tireless worker,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “I don’t think many people work harder than Arron. His improvement is a direct correlation to his work ethic. He’s getting better. We think the best basketball is ahead of him.”

At 28, Afflalo is entering his prime as he reunites with Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. The two became close friends during their time in Denver and will have instant chemistry during their sequel.

“I’m really going to enjoy playing with him,” Afflalo said. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve had.

“He’s at a new stage of confidence in his career. I look forward to getting into his mind a little bit and helping him focus in terms of staying locked in on winning a championship and being the best player he can be. We have the potential to be an extremely good backcourt.”

Afflalo left the Nuggets as part of the three-team trade that brought Andre Iguodala to Denver and sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.

While with the Magic, Afflalo continued to expand his game, averaging a career-high 18.2 points and serving as a mentor to Orlando’s younger players.

While he embraced the additional responsibility, the lack of success was difficult to cope with at times.

“It’s been extremely difficult losing,” he said. “A part of growth is about taking it in perspective and seeing the positives in every situation. That’s what I did in Orlando. When I left Denver, I was a kid in terms of my development. I’m pushing more towards being a man so I can come back as a new player in Denver with a lot more experience in life and on the court.”