Nuggets create a buzz during scrimmage at Pepsi Center
The buzz about basketball is back at Pepsi Center.
After an eight-month wait, nearly 4,000 people satisfied their hoops craving Friday night with an advance screening of the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets. As first impressions go, this one was pretty good.
Veteran Al Harrington put on a three-point shooting display, newcomer Rudy Fernandez dazzled with his scoring and passing, and rookies Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Higgins and Julyan Stone closed the show with some impromptu dance moves that had the crowd in an uproar.
“It was fun,” Faried said. “You want your crowd to get to know you a little bit. It kind of helped from the simple fact that they got to see a different side of us, a fun personality.”
Faried had a reputation as a hustling, glass-cleaning, high-energy player when the Nuggets drafted him 22nd overall six months ago, and he lived up to his Manimal nickname during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Running the floor at every opportunity, Faried scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting and added seven rebounds and three blocked shots. His next stat line will come during Denver’s first exhibition against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at Pepsi Center.
“It was exciting, but I can wait for the games to start so we can play together and people aren’t going to know our plays,” Faried said.
Fernandez, acquired from the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the week, is still learning Denver’s playbook, but his transition looked seamless Friday. He made 6-of-11 three-pointers and finished with 20 points, 10 assists and three steals.
The only guy hotter than Fernandez was Harrington, who hit his first four three-point attempts and scored 17 points in just 18 minutes. Harrington has been staying about a half-hour after practice every day to work on his accuracy from long range.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “I was shooting it well until I got here. I got in camp and couldn’t make a shot. I’m just waiting for the lights to come on when they really count.”
The stats will count when Denver opens the season Dec. 26 in Dallas. While the defending-champion Mavericks are expected to remain a Western Conference power, few NBA “experts” are predicting big things for the Nuggets.
Denver coach George Karl is hoping to change the national perception.
“We made a big trade last February and we went 18-7,” Karl told the Pepsi Center crowd. “I think that was more real than fake. I really think this team is committed and dedicated to proving that the NBA is overlooking a very good team.
“Ever since I’ve been here, this building has been one of the best buildings in the NBA because of you all. We need your support. Stay with us. I think you’ll like what you see, and we’ll continue to get better all year long.”