Nuggets rookie Hamilton warms quickly to playing opportunity
First-year forward making adjustment to NBA on and off the court
Adjustments are part of the job description for NBA rookies.
They have to absorb a playbook far more complicated than anything they’ve ever seen.
They have to learn how to manage a schedule centered around practice, weight-room sessions and community appearances.
They have to eat right and pace themselves with a travel itinerary that routinely includes three time zones in four nights.
And for Denver Nuggets rookie Jordan Hamilton, there’s a meteorological adjustment that stems from growing up in sunny California and spending two years of college in the warm climate of Texas.
“It’s my first year living in snow,” Hamilton said. “It can be kind of stressful. There will be snow at the airport when we land, and two days before it was 60 degrees. It’s just part of living in a different climate. I’m trying to get used to it.”
The same can be said for Hamilton’s experience in the NBA.
After playing limited minutes – or, more often, not at all – during Denver’s first 33 games, Hamilton was called upon to play meaningful minutes in the team’s final two games before the NBA All-Star break.
He responded with a career-high 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 22. Hamilton struggled with his shot against the San Antonio Spurs the following night, but grabbed a career-best nine rebounds.
“What I like about Jordan that nobody talks about is he rebounds,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He has an instinctive rebounding knack. He also has an ability shoot it.”
Hamilton is one of three rookies who were called upon in the first half of the season as starters Arron Afflalo (3), Danilo Gallinari (10), Ty Lawson (5), Timofey Mozgov (9) and Nene (12) combined to miss 39 games.
The Nuggets (18-17 overall) went 14-9 when at least four of their regular starters were healthy.
“Once we get healthy, we’re going to show everybody that we’re better than 18-17,” Lawson said. “Every team knows that. They know they’re getting away with not playing us at full strength.”
While injuries tempered Denver’s early season success, they provided Hamilton and fellow rookies Kenneth Faried and Julyan Stone an opportunity to gain valuable on-the-job training.
Stone, a non-traditional 6-foot-7 point guard, has shown the ability to run the offense and defend on the perimeter, while the ultra-athletic Faried is averaging 10.4 points and 8.5 rebounds in the eight games in which he has played at least 15 minutes.
“I think everybody’s very positive about what’s happened out there,” Karl said. “Going into the season, we probably didn’t feel like we had insurance at some positions with our young guys. I think we do now.”
With the Nuggets expected to have Gallinari, Lawson, Nene and key reserve Rudy Fernandez back soon after the All-Star break, minutes could be tough to come by for the rookies.
They will go back to eating right and improving their game in preparation for the next time Karl calls their name.
“You always have to be prepared in this game,” Stone said. “Coach preaches it to me and I just try to stay ready.”