Nikola Jokić on Training Camp: 'We Did a Really Good Job'
SAN DIEGO – On the eve of the Nuggets’ first game of the preseason, the team’s star, Nikola Jokic, took a look back at the weeklong training camp, which wrapped up on Saturday at San Diego State.
“I think we did a really good job,” Jokic said. “First of all, coach is satisfied. He’s really hard to satisfy. But he was happy, so we’re going to be happy, too. We are still learning to play with each other, so we’re going to be better and better. This is just the first five days.”
The days, by all accounts, were productive. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the Nuggets are bringing back players with experience in the system and playing alongside each other. That allowed the Nuggets to be able to start camp in a more advanced place.
“This might be the first training camp – definitely since I’ve been a head coach but maybe even as an assistant – that we ran 5-on-5 scrimmage at the end of practice on day one,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, day one you try to put stuff in and introduce stuff and philosophy and terminology.
“I think the advantage that we have is continuity – year four, we know each other. That’s already in. … We’re ahead of the curve. So, we have hit the ground running. We are, I think, ahead of a lot of teams because of the continuity that we have.”
Jokic agreed. When asked about the chemistry the Nuggets already have, he pointed to the experience he has with his teammates.
“You know how they move, the spots they like to take a shot, everything – the movement, the passing,” Jokic said. “You just know what they’re going to do, so it’s pretty easy. It helps us a lot.”
The five-man lineup of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris Will Barton, Paul Millsap and Jokic played in 16 games together last season, and a total of 65 minutes. It was the ninth most-used lineup last season and will be the Nuggets starting lineup this season.
The four-man group of Murray, Harris, Barton and Jokic played in 52 games and logged 593 minutes together – the second-most used four-man lineup last season. So, there is significant on-court experience returning, and the Nuggets are benefiting from that.
The first chance for the Nuggets to put some of the stuff they’ve been working on into an actual game is on Sunday against the new-look Lakers, featuring super star LeBron James. The media attention around the contest is expected to be at regular season levels with the anticipation that James will make his Lakers debut.
Harris is questionable for the game with a left hamstring strain.
Jokic talked about what he thought the first game had in store for the Nuggets.
"Probably a lot of mistakes, a lot of running…and a lot of people,” Jokic said. “I mean, it is (LeBron) James is with the Lakers, so a lot of people.”
Jokic went through his second full practice on Saturday. He returned to full participant status on Friday after being limited the first three days with a finger injury.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent. But it’s getting better. A little sore.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.