First weekend of Nuggets training camp an endurance test

Denver prepares for season with just 11 players available

During the offseason, Al Harrington took part in a race that required him to climb rope ladders and jump over pits of fire.

Piece of cake compared to the first weekend of Denver Nuggets training camp.

Harrington and his teammates were sore and winded Sunday after the third straight day of practicing with 11 players. The 2-3 hour workouts have been demanding both mentally and physically as the Nuggets cram four weeks worth of work into just 16 days – at altitude, no less.

“I’ve never been in a camp where you have only 11 guys,” said Harrington, entering his 14th NBA season. “The guys are really competing and playing very hard, and we’re fighting for the whole 2½ to 3 hours. In that respect, I’m proud of us showing our commitment to having a good season.”

The Nuggets are hoping to add reinforcements soon. They are working to re-sign their own free agents, shooting guard Arron Afflalo (restricted) and center Nene (unrestricted), as well as other free agents still on the market.

Nuggets coach George Karl, meanwhile, must simply prepare his team for the Dec. 26 opener against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. He has been emphasizing defense in half-court drills, and he opened the throttle with a 24-minute scrimmage Sunday.

“I don’t think there’s any question we’re a little concerned about 11 guys,” Karl said. “We’re also concerned about getting ready.”

Karl’s players certainly are giving him every ounce of effort. Veteran point guard Andre Miller has been a vocal leader in practices, spurring on his fatigued teammates, and there has been no shortage of physical play in the paint between young centers Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov.

“You’ve got Timo and Kosta down there fighting and battling every play,” Harrington said. “It’s a very competitive camp. Everybody here wants to get some minutes and make sure we have a successful season.”

The bumping and banging isn’t limited to the big men. Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson still had a swollen upper lip 24 hours after taking an inadvertent elbow from rookie Julyan Stone.

“We’re going hard,” Lawson said. “You see my lip. My lip’s fat right now. It’s definitely tough, but we’re getting in shape. We’re going to be in better shape than most teams.”

At this point, the Nuggets just need to make it to the starting line.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, 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...


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