NOTEBOOK: New Nuggets ready to go after first practice
Several Denver debuts expected Thursday against Boston
Players fell into two distinct categories as the Nuggets went through practice Wednesday.
“Hey, New Guys…” assistant coach Melvin Hunt frequently called out as he delivered various instructions.
The New Guys – Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov – did their best to pick up offensive and defensive concepts while practicing with the Old Guys in advance of Denver’s game Thursday against the Boston Celtics.
The new arrivals were part of the three-team trade that sent Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams to the New York Knicks.
“I’m ready. I cannot wait to start to play,” Gallinari said. “(Boston is) one of the best teams in the league, so we’ve got to do a great job and we’ve got to play a perfect game.”
Gallinari and Chandler were reunited with Nuggets forward Al Harrington, who spent his previous two season with the Knicks, and Denver coach George Karl said there was talk of playing the three together, along with Felton and Mozgov.
“We'll see,” Felton said. “I'm looking forward to playing with everybody on this team. I think we got a strong team all the way around. It's going to be interesting and it's going to be fun.”
Felton averaged 17.1 points and nine assists as a starter for the Knicks, but he likely will come off the bench while adapting to Denver’s offense. Karl also is intrigued by playing alongside fellow speedster Ty Lawson.
“I like that idea,” Karl said. “We've got to have more passing in our game, and now if I have to play two point guards who can each get nine assists each night, I think that's enough passing.”
Depending on matchups, Chandler or Gallinari are also options at small forward, but J.R. Smith probably earned another start against Boston after scoring 26 points in Tuesday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Whichever direction Karl goes, the Nuggets are extremely deep heading into the final 24 games of the season.
“We’ve got some great teammates and some great coaches,” Chandler said. “I’m just looking forward to playing tomorrow. Hopefully we can get off to a good start.”
KOUFOS LOGS KILOMETERS: The odometer on Koufos’ SUV was about ready to cry uncle by the time it rolled into the Pepsi Center parking lot Wednesday.
Given 48 hours to report to Denver after being acquired from Minnesota on Tuesday, Koufos decided to drive his Range Rover across country so he would have a vehicle in Colorado.
The Minnesota-to-Colorado trip came after Koufos and his cousin made a 1,300-mile round trip from Minneapolis to Canton, Ohio, during the All-Star break. Koufos holds dual citzenship in the United States and Greece but was born and raised in Canton.
In just his third NBA season, Koufos already has been involved in two high-profile trades. The Utah Jazz sent him and two first-round draft picks to Minnesota in exchange for forward Al Jefferson last summer.
“From my standpoint, I’m a young guy. I’m not married. I don’t think it’s stressful at all,” he said. “I’m blessed to be part of the NBA and I’m playing the game I love.”
ETC: Karl met with the new players Wednesday but he did not attend practice because of a previously scheduled appointment … Felton was excited to focus on basketball after several weeks of hearing his name in trade talks. “I’m glad all this mess is over with,” he said. “That's what it was – a bunch of mess.” … Anthony scored 27 points and Billups added 21 to help the Knicks beat Milwaukee 114-108 in their New York debut Wednesday. Several Nuggets – new and old – watched the game on TV in the locker room after practice.