Arron Afflalo in line for contract, promotion to captain
Nuggets shooting guard ready for increased leadership role in Denver
Arron Afflalo made his way around the Pepsi Center practice court, in no real hurry to go anywhere.
The leisurely visit was symbolic of his long-term outlook with the Nuggets.
Afflalo, one of the NBA’s rising talents at shooting guard, can become a restricted free agent on July 1. He and the Nuggets have built a great relationship, and Afflalo does not anticipate a change of address next season.
“I would love to be here. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “Nothing’s guaranteed until it’s guaranteed, but I would love to be here. With that in mind, it’s going to be the first free agency for me. I’m comfortable here and that’s how I’m moving forward.”
Afflalo, 25, averaged career-highs in points (12.6), rebounds (3.6), assists (2.4) and three-point percentage (.423) last season and solidified his status as the team’s top perimeter defender. The results were a product of his fierce work ethic and indefatigable nature.
“That dude works,” Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt said as he watched Afflalo play an impromptu game of 1-on-1. “He makes me tired just looking at him.”
Afflalo has always led by example, but he also started to find his voice in the locker room after team captains Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups were traded to the New York Knicks on Feb. 22. The trade left veteran forward Kenyon Martin as the lone captain.
Martin could return as an unrestricted free agent next season, and Afflalo would be a natural choice for coach George Karl as his next co-captain.
“I’ve always been (a leader),” Afflalo said. “It’s nothing I would ask to just be placed into, but if my teammates are on board with that and I can be the type of leader that they trust, then of course I’d love that role.”
Afflalo was limited to providing moral support for his teammates for much of March and April. A nagging hamstring injury forced him to miss 13 of the final 19 games of the regular season and the first two games of Denver’s first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
By the time he returned for Game 3, the Nuggets trailed 2-0 and Afflalo never found a rhythm in the final three games of the series.
After Denver was eliminated, no one in the Nuggets locker room was more despondent than Afflalo.
“I’ve harnessed (the disappointment) in a way that it’s going to provide motivation for me to be different next year,” he said. “When you finally get an opportunity to have your impact felt on a team scale, you really take it to heart a little bit more. Next year, with that in mind, I’m going to be ready.”
If Afflalo returns to his customary position alongside point guard Ty Lawson, the Nuggets will have an exciting young backcourt that can push the pace, make perimeter shots and create off the dribble.
It’s a prospect that already has Karl and his coaching staff excited for training camp.
“Ty and Arron proved in a short time that they can win games,” Karl said. “They both have windows of getting better and I think they’re both committed to get better.”
Afflalo also is committed to helping the next generation of ballplayers improve. While in Denver, he spent two days working with kids at a Nuggets youth camp organized by the National Basketball Academy.
“It was great,” Afflalo said. “The kids listened and they were really energetic. You see certain kids out there and you always wonder if their mom put them in camp or if they really want to be there. They all seemed like they enjoyed it and wanted to be there. If you can maintain that in any field of life, you have a chance to progress. Keep it pure and love it.”
Word of advice spoken like a potential captain.
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...