Nuggets’ Alex English discusses Denver's playoff chances, Jokić’s greatness and more
CHICAGO — NBA All-Star weekend is a celebration of the game. From the best 3-point shooters dueling it out and the most athletic dunkers showing off their hops to star players joining forces in the Sunday showcase, the best of the best are always around All-Star weekend festivities.
Of course, that also means that past legends of the game make their way to the host city to reconnect with past teammates and competitors and to continue to make an impact on the game of basketball.
One of those greats in Chicago for the weekend is Alex English, the Denver Nuggets’ all-time leading scorer, eight-time All-Star and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. After playing 11 seasons with the Nuggets, English is considered one of, if not the best player in franchise history and led Denver to extended playoff success on several occasions.
Following his playing days, English worked his way through various coaching ranks in the NBA and developmental league before working in the media as an analyst for the SEC Network. English has been very active in supporting the SportsUnited Sports Envoy program for the U.S. Department of State. The program has allowed English to conduct basketball clinics and events that reached more than 1900 youth from underserved areas.
English took the time to speak with Nuggets.com ahead of Sunday’s All-Star game about the current Nuggets roster, his work with P.J. Dozier and the “load management” phenomenon running rampant in today’s NBA.
Nuggets.com: Nikola Jokić was named All-NBA First Team center last season. Do you believe he is the best big man in the NBA?
English: I think he’s definitely one of the best. He’s certainly in the top two or three. When you say ‘big man’ you’ve got to include guys like Anthony Davis. But I think he’s definitely one of the best.
A big storyline in today’s NBA is the issue of load management. You have players on the Nuggets like Nikola and Jamal Murray that try and play through injuries and don’t rest. Do you appreciate that as a former player?
I do appreciate it, because that’s something that I did. I did it because I loved playing the game. You hear ‘load management’, well what does that mean? If I was legitimately injured, I had to take off. But wanting to take off to rest wasn’t in my DNA. I wanted to play because I just loved the game too much.
The Nuggets are currently second in the Western Conference. What’s going to be key for this Nuggets squad to breakthrough?
They’ve kind of broke through, but as far as winning the Western Conference, they’ve got to stay healthy first of all. If they stay healthy, I feel that they’ve got as legitimate a shot as any team. You talk about the two LA teams, but I think Denver is right there with them.
English has known P.J. Dozier for several years, as Dozier attended English’s basketball camps in the South Carolina area growing up before attending the University of South Carolina, which is also English’s alma mater. Following the 2017 Draft where Dozier wasn’t selected, he worked extensively with English over the ensuing summer, focusing on the versatile guard’s jumpshot. English, a pioneer of using the mid-range shot to fuel his offensive success, worked to ensure that Dozier included plenty of variety in his game instead of simply relying on the 3-pointer.
Following Dozier’s debut with the Nuggets back in January (a game in which the former Gamecock scored 12 points in 13 minutes), English sent him a text message of encouragement and support.
You worked with and coached P.J. (Dozier), what’s going to be key for him to build on this success he’s had with the Nuggets for the rest of his career?
I think he just needs to continue doing what he’s done to get here. Hard work, working on his game and jump shot, playing good defense. He’s an NBA player. He has NBA skills and an NBA body. I remember when I was coaching, we would always coach for and like guys that have length, and he’s got length. He’s one of those guys that when he’s playing defense he’s going to get deflections, blocks and rebounds. He’s also got a great handle. He just has to continue to put in the hard work that it’s taken to get here.