Marlowe Blog: Change has been good for Denver Nuggets
Team playing well under new coach Brian Shaw and general manager Tim Connelly
Good vibrations are everywhere.
Winning early certainly has something to do with it. The Denver Nuggets are 13-8 through 21 games, an improvement from last season when the team started 10-11 during a road-heavy first two months.
But it’s more than that. It’s a new approach to winning.
Nuggets President and Governor Josh Kroenke brought in new General Manager Tim Connelly, and together they hired new coach Brian Shaw.
I had a chance to get to know Connelly a bit better on the recently concluded long-and-winding road trip. We were both part of a big Broncos crowd at the Sports Tavern in Washington, D.C., on an off day. In between Peyton Manning touchdown tosses, we got a chance to chat.
Tim is a bright, interesting, energetic guy, totally committed to building a championship NBA team. He is also a good guy, with the ability to make everyone in the organization comfortable and productive.
The same can be said for Shaw, who had some big shoes to fill when he replaced future Hall of Famer George Karl. To me, it looks like Shaw is filling those Jack Purcells very nicely. Smart, capable, calm, reasonable, direct, soft-spoken and funny, are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe him.
Of course, being a knowledgeable basketball coach is priority No. 1 for Shaw, who seems to know his stuff. He’s organized, runs good practices, makes in-game adjustments, and calls timely time outs.
Shaw also does some of his coaching “outside the box”.
His policy of “playing time is based on effectiveness” is very refreshing.
In Philadelphia, Shaw sat three of his starters the entire fourth quarter and finished with his reserves down the stretch. Most NBA coaches, with the exception of Gregg Popovich, always put their starters back in midway thru the fourth quarter.
Shaw also has been playing 10 to 11 players 15-plus minutes per game. Most first-time head coaches wouldn’t have enough steel to experiment like that. “Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready,” Shaw tells his guys.
I also enjoy some of Shaw’s practice techniques. The “hit me” free-throw drill he came up with where the players try to make a free throw cleanly and bonk the coach in the head was classic. It was a drill that featured concentration and fun at the same time.
Developing the young players is also something Shaw sincerely believes in. He played Evan Fournier 21 minutes against the 76ers even though Evan shot 1-of-7 and had three turnovers. It’s all about the big picture.
In Washington, Shaw told me he was very concerned about player diets. He feels that pizza, chips and nachos are tasty but not what you should be eating before a big game. So he picked up all that junk food and dumped it in the trash! Chicken, salads and healthy sandwiches are now on the menu.
It seems change is definitely in the rarified air for the Mile High Crew.
That change is interesting, entertaining and fun. Will it lead to success in the playoffs one day? Stay tuned.
Chris Marlowe is in his 10th year as the play-by-play voice for the Nuggets on Altitude. He is a longtime broadcaster who also served as the captain of the gold media-winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1984.