Nuggets’ trio of newcomers enjoying new home
It’s not home, merely a resting place in lieu of a home. But it’ll do for now.
Who could complain? A comfy recliner, dozens upon dozens of TVs all tuned to one sports channel or another – in your case, whichever one’s showing basketball – service at your side and a plate of hot wings in your lap.
It’s Wesley Person’s favorite place in Denver. If not because he’s able to watch his NBA peers nearly 24/7, it’s because the ESPN Zone is about the only place he knows outside the Pepsi Center. It sits just a short stroll away from the downtown hotel he’s been residing in the past couple weeks.
“I love the game of basketball and I love watching it,” says Person, who was signed by the Nuggets off waivers from Miami on March 3. “I’m not at home, I don’t have a house that has DirectTV. So I go to the ESPN Zone, have me a couple wings, kick back, drink some water and watch the big screen TV.”
Such is the life of the 11-year veteran, now suiting up for his seventh team, as he awaits the arrival of his wife and children in Denver later this week, when he says he should have a house on which he can install a satellite. Person is all too familiar with free agency, trades, and waivers in the NBA, noting that it’s part of the business.
But he had some help at his Miami home in making his latest move. Upon learning of his signing by Denver, Person had only enough time to pack the necessities.
“I’m lucky to have a sweet wife that’s willing to sacrifice a little bit – sacrifice a little bit of sleep while she also has responsibility of the kids,” Person says. “She was very helpful: helping me get my clothes packed, getting things situated and communicating with people on the phone. Just having that other half makes the transition a bit easier.”
It wasn’t as easy for fifth-year forward Eduardo Najera in making a quick relocation. Najera was traded from Golden State to Denver on Feb. 24, while his wife endured the final stages of pregnancy. He missed practice Tuesday to be with his wife in Dallas, where his family resides, as the couple gave birth to their second child.
Luis Flores, meanwhile, has done it all on his own. Single and a rookie out of Manhattan, he also arrived in the Golden State trade. Flores only had time to toss a few things in a couple duffle bags and move to a city he had been to for the first time only two and a half weeks earlier, for a game against the Nuggets on Feb. 5.
“A lot of snow, a whole lot of snow,” Flores says about his initial thoughts of Denver. “I thought it’d be snowing all day everyday. I thought it would be really cold. But surprisingly when I first got here, it was hot. It was in the mid to high 50s, there was no snow, and it was sunny all day. A few days ago was the first time I was here when it snowed.”
Flores has yet to endure any rookie ribbing, but seeing as how he’s the team’s only first-year guy, he feels it could be coming.
“Not yet, but I’ve been hearing about it. Let’s keep that on the low. Still, some of them don’t know that I’m a rook,” he says.
Whether a rookie or a veteran, Nuggets coaches and players have been nothing but obliging to the newcomers. While Person ventured out on his own to find some grub, Flores was chauffeured around by Denver’s third-year forward Nenê. Flores, who was born in the Dominican Republic, has found a bit of home in the Denver restaurants Cuba Cuba and Samba Room.
It’s so far so good for the Nuggets’ three newcomers, all of whom have taken a liking to Denver’s organization and expressed interest in remaining in the Mile High City for a while.
The feelings are mutual from the Nuggets’ end. They like Person’s shooting, which was a key ingredient to Denver’s fourth-quarter run against Phoenix on March 13, when he nailed three 3-pointers to spur a 13-3 run that put the Nuggets ahead by five points with seven minutes remaining.
They enjoy Najera’s hustle and toughness, which was on display in his first game before the Denver fans, when he pestered Atlanta’s Tyronn Lue enough to cough up the ball and then send a couple flailing swings at Najera before getting ejected.
And the Nuggets see a lot of promise in the young Flores, who realizes that as a newcomer and rookie he has a lot to prove. He’s routinely the last Nugget to exit the practice court, staying late to work with coaches until his jersey and undershirt have no extra space to soak up sweat.
For Najera and Flores, moving from Golden State to Denver was a blessing.
“It’s always good when you’re a part of a team that wins,” Flores says.
For Person, he believes he’s landed on a team to which he can contribute significantly, and hopefully a place where he’ll finish his career.
“I think this team has a lot of upside and a lot of talent here, a good nucleus,” Person says. “This is a statement team, it’s not a rebuilding team. We’ve got a good coach in George Karl directing the team now. This team is on the rise.”