Darrell Arthur’s turn toward being a bonafide leader on the Nuggets roster started a few years ago.
Early in his tenure with the Nuggets, Arthur was “gradually taking baby steps into it,” he said. But he knew a couple of things: The team he’d previously been on in Memphis had good leadership and was tight-knit. In Denver, Arthur knew his voice would eventually be needed.
That time is now.
“It’s my 10th year,” Arthur said. “I feel like I need to take on a leadership role.”
He’s taken that role and run with it. So much so, that after the Nuggets’ win over Phoenix on Wednesday, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Arthur has “blown me away from a leadership standpoint” this season.
The latest example of it was Arthur coming to Malone on Kenneth Faried’s behalf. Malone announced to the team and the media that he’d be adding players back into what had become a tight rotation. Sure, Arthur wanted to be on the court. But prior to the game on Wednesday night he stumped for Faried instead.
“What you have to love about him right now is he’s not playing, and he’s more than capable of helping us out,” Malone said. “But he’s a guy that right now from a numbers standpoint isn’t getting called on very often. He has not allowed that to detract from his leadership role and staying positive, staying engaged.
“For him to come see me before the game last night is an example of that. He’s putting the team above everything, above himself. When we talk about our culture – a work culture, a trust culture, a selfless culture, he embodies being selfless. He’s putting everybody else above his own personal wants and needs, which you have to admire and respect.”
Arthur figured he was next up. Mike Miller and Jameer Nelson had been the loudest veteran leadership voices in the last two seasons, but now both are gone.
“With both of those guys being gone,” Arthur said, “I just felt the need to step in.”
Part of what makes Arthur so effective is his ability to get through to both young players and other veterans.
“I feel like I get along with everybody,” Arthur said. “We’ve got a close-knit team. We all hang out.”
Arthur said he’s sees similarities with this Nuggets team to the Memphis teams he played on that advanced to the playoffs.
“I think this team has something special like we had in Memphis,” said Arthur, who spent the first five years of his career (2008-13) with the Grizzlies. “We have the same thing with this team.”
Malone applied the term ‘special’ to Arthur.
“He’s a special guy,” Malone said. “He really is. He’s been around. Won a national championship in college. He’s been around some good players and coaches in the NBA in his long career. What really separates him is players have so much respect for Darrell Arthur because every single day – whether it’s a day like today when we’re not doing a lot, or days when we’re going hard – he goes 110 percent.
“So, when he does speak, players listen to him because he’s doing it. He’s not one of those guys – and I’ve been around the league a long time – that are telling you what to do, but they are not doing it themselves.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.