Nuggets open camp with familiar faces, new names
Trimmed down and built for speed, Ty Lawson looked as quick as ever.
Freshly inked and feeling healthy, Chris Andersen looked ready to run, rebound and defend.
Energized by the arrival of his first NBA practice, Kenneth Faried looked like the athletic power forward of the future.
Yes, basketball returned to the Pepsi Center on Friday as the Denver Nuggets opened training camp with a spirited practice that extended well beyond the dinner hour. After three hours on the court, no one was complaining.
“It was hard, but it was worth it,” said Faried, selected 22nd overall by Denver in the 2011 NBA Draft. “I couldn’t wait to get on the court.”
There will be plenty more opportunities for Faried and his new teammates over the next two weeks. The Nuggets opened camp just 17 days before their 2011-12 opener against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
“You’re going to go 15 or 20 games into the season still trying to get your team to (have) a full playbook and a full defensive concept playbook,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Everybody’s got the same timetable. I think we can take what we did at the end of last year and come out ready to play.”
The Nuggets closed 2010-11 with an 18-7 surge that earned them the fifth seed in the West. Six players from last year’s playoff roster were on the practice court, and Denver is still hoping to re-sign restricted free-agent shooting guard Arron Afflalo and unrestricted free-agent center Nene.
Friday was the first day NBA teams could sign free agents.
“I’ve been texting Arron and Nene,” Lawson said. “Hopefully they sign back with us. I have confidence.”
Lawson also has confidence in his game as he prepares for his first full season as Denver’s starting point guard. He spent the past few months playing professionally in Lithuania and believes he is quicker than in his first two NBA seasons.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for months,” Lawson said. “We had a good practice, worked hard. I’m excited, ready to get back.”
Lawson and veteran Andre Miller will be called upon to run Karl’s free-flowing, uptempo offense this season. Though Lawson is the incumbent starter, Karl won’t hesitate to play two point guards for stretches.
“Andre’s a winner,” Karl said. “The guy’s one of the smartest players in the NBA. He directs a team and leads a team in a very, very winning way. I’ll be anxious to see how he and Ty play together. They went at each other pretty good today. That was pretty fun, too.”
Before their first practice, the Nuggets officially signed rookies Faried and Jordan Hamilton to contracts. They also reached training camp agreements with undrafted free-agent guards Cory Higgins (Colorado) and Julyan Stone (UTEP).
“The guys who come in the gym, we’re going to try to make them better,” Karl said. “Ty and Andre had good days today. I thought Gallo and Timo had good days. Bird and Al were pretty good. The young kids had their moments. Jordan Hamilton shot the ball too much, but he also did some things pretty well.”
After one day of practice, the evaluations were secondary. Karl and the Nuggets were just happy to be back in the gym playing basketball again.