No longer a rookie, Jordan Hamilton goes back to work

Talented Denver Nuggets forward wants to contribute more next season
by Aaron Lopez

With his rookie season behind him, Jordan Hamilton was free to take a vacation.

He could hang out in Los Angeles with his friends and family or escape to a quiet Caribbean island to unwind after his first year with the Denver Nuggets.

Hamilton chose Option C: Get right back in the gym and start making a case for an increased workload in 2012-13.

Within two weeks of Denver being eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs, Hamilton was the first Nuggets player to return to Pepsi Center for full-scale individual workouts in the weight room and on the practice court.

“I came back early because most guys after their rookie season they think that’s it’s time to have fun and time to enjoy the summer,” Hamilton said after a recent training session.

“I just feel like it’s time for me to get better. I wasn’t really satisfied with sitting on the bench, so I’m just putting in extra work to get better every day.”

Hamilton, 21, averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 26 games as a rookie. He played at least 14 minutes just seven times, averaging 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in those games.

With versatile guard/forward Rudy Fernandez set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, there could be an opportunity for Hamilton to step into coach George Karl’s playing rotation.

“I think one of the guys we’re all really excited about is Jordan Hamilton,” Karl said. “We kind of knew about his offense, but what I like about Jordan is his rebounding. He has an instinctive rebounding knack. He also has the ability to shoot it.”

Like most young players, Hamilton is still trying to improve his defense, both on and off the ball. He has been working with Nuggets assistant John Welch and player development coordinator Patrick Mutombo.

“They said offensively I had it, but defensively they wanted me to get better,” Hamilton said. “If I continue to do those things for the summer, I think I’ll have a chance to get a lot more minutes next year and get in the rotation.”

Hamilton will get plenty of playing time when the Nuggets send a team to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas from July 13-22. The opportunity was unavailable after he was selected 26th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.

“I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait,” Hamilton said. “I’m going to play the right way and do the things I have to do to get better. I’m going to show everyone what I can do.”

Accustomed to playing a starring role in high school and college, Hamilton learned to be patient while observing from the Nuggets bench last season. In retrospect, it probably was the best thing for his development as he spent time around veterans such as Arron Afflalo, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington and Andre Miller.

“That’s just the life of being a rookie,” Hamilton said. “I think it was kind of good for me not to get too much playing time and just learn and sit back and see basketball from another standpoint. I listened and learned from the older guys, and that will help me in the long run.”

Within his own household in Los Angeles, Hamilton is considered one of the older guys.

His brother Isaac will enter his senior season at St. John Bosco High School as a consensus top 15 national prospect, while his youngest brother Daniel will be a highly rated junior at the same school.

Pickup games back home are fierce, but there will be fewer of them this summer.

Big Brother Jordan has work to do.