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Nuggets eager to get started as season opens in Sacramento

Denver ready for first regular-season game under coach Brian Shaw


The journey has been more than a decade in the making.

Brian Shaw was nearing the end of a remarkable NBA career that included seven teams, 11 playoff appearances and three championship finishes when he began preparing for the next chapter of his basketball life.

Seeing coaching potential in Shaw, Los Angeles Lakers assistant Frank Hamblen started inviting him to film sessions and asking him to prepare periodic scouting reports.

“That’s where it started for me, just getting a taste of what it was like,” Shaw said. “I started seeing the writing on the wall. I played until I was 37 years old. At some point you make that transition where you start getting the foundation under your belt (to coach).”

Shaw retired as a player in 2003 and went to work as a college scout for the Lakers the following season. He joined the Lakers as an assistant in 2004 and spent seven seasons in Los Angeles before joining the Indiana Pacers as associate head coach in 2011.

Through the years, Shaw interviewed for numerous head-coaching positions, and he finally landed his first job when the Denver Nuggets tabbed him as their coach this summer.

After four weeks of training camp and seven preseason games, the Brian Shaw era officially begins Wednesday when the Nuggets open the 2013-14 season against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena (8 p.m. MT, Altitude).

“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” Shaw said after practice Tuesday. “We’re finally getting to the part where we play games that count for real.”

Any anxiety Shaw has about his first game revolves around Denver’s lingering injury situation. Starting point guard Ty Lawson did some non-contact drills Tuesday and is a game-time decision with a groin strain.

Lawson sustained the injury in the final preseason game last Friday but reported improvement each of the past three days.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’ve just been shooting, putting up a lot of shots, running into shots. No contact, but we’ll see (Wednesday).”

If Lawson plays, he will start alongside shooting guard Randy Foye, center JaVale McGee, power forward J.J. Hickson and small forward Anthony Randolph.

Foye and Hickson are veterans who joined the Nuggets during the offseason, while McGee and Randolph were reserves who helped Denver win 57 games last season.

“It’s exciting,” Hickson said. “Every time you enter a new season, whether it’s your first year playing or your last year playing, it’s exciting to get the season started..”

The feeling is mutual in Sacramento, where the Kings have a new ownership group, a new coach (Michael Malone), a new general manager (former Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Pete D’Alessandro) and a new outlook.

The franchise nearly moved to Seattle last spring, but Kings fans celebrated when the NBA rejected the relocation and kept the team where it has been since 1985.

“I know the fans are going to be involved in the game and give them a lot of energy,” Denver guard Nate Robinson said. “We just have to be ready to play and match their intensity, knowing we have to win.”

The Nuggets also will have to contend with Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins, who received a contract extension just before training camp. The deal came after Cousins averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds last season.

“They have a big guy that’s legit that is going to give our bigs everything they can handle,” Shaw said. “It’s also their home opener so they’re going to be fired up. We want to get off to a good start and start out the season with a win.”


NUGGETS AT KINGS


WHEN:
8 p.m. MT
WHERE: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif.
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Anthony Randolph
F J.J. Hickson
C JaVale McGee
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

SACRAMENTO
F John Salmons
F Patrick Patterson
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Marcus Thornton
G Greivis Vasquez

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Kenneth Faried (hamstring strain) and Foye (bruised hip) are probable; Lawson (groin strain) is a game-time decision; Wilson Chandler (hamstring strain) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are out.
SACRAMENTO: Carl Landry (hip) is day-to-day.

SERIES NOTES
Denver has won 18 of the last 25 games overall against the Kings . . . The Nuggets have gone 8-4 at Sleep Train Arena over the past five years, after losing the previous 20 games in Sacramento from 1997-2006 . . . Denver’s 33-point win (118-85) in Sacramento on 12/6/08 is the Nuggets’ largest margin of victory over the Kings franchise since joining the NBA in 1976-77 . . . The Nuggets won the 2012-13 season series against Sacramento (4-0), marking the fourth time in the past five years Denver has won the series.