Denver Nuggets 2021 Training Camp Notebook: Day 1

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Blink and you may have missed the 2021 NBA offseason.

Just about one calendar year removed from the end of their 2019-20 season in the Orlando bubble, the Denver Nuggets opened training camp today as preparations intensify for the 2021-22 season.

It’s full speed ahead here on out, as Denver’s first preseason game is just six days away, while the regular-season opener against the Phoenix Suns is three weeks away.

With Jamal Murray out to begin the season due to injury, all eyes shift to potential larger roles for Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon, along with the increased opportunity for Denver’s guards.

Following today’s practice, Head Coach Michael Malone and Porter Jr. spoke to the media. Here are some takeaways from practice as we kick off our training camp notebook here on Nuggets.com.

Ironing out the kinks

Several Nuggets players spent an extended amount of time in the Mile High City over the past month, working out both in and out of the gym. However, it’s nearly impossible to replicate a true practice setting like Monday’s setup, which highlighted the importance of training camp and preseason games as the team rounds into shape ahead of Oct. 20th.

“You know guys worked hard, (but it was) really sloppy,” Malone said following practice. “Which I think probably 30 NBA head coaches are saying the same thing during the first training camp practice.”

Malone noted the balance between running drills and stations with mixing in some live action, which could have played a role in the slow start to camp. Every year, teams get a reminder on day one just how important training camp is to build a rhythm heading into the season, which places an emphasis on the next four days for the Nuggets.

A “strong” return for MPJ

A player many fans and analysts are focused on heading into the 2021-22 campaign is Porter Jr., who will likely assume the second-largest role on the offensive end to begin the season prior to Murray’s return.

After a breakout season last year in which he averaged 19 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, Porter Jr. focused on his ball-handling and defense in the offseason in preparation for a larger role on the team.

However, his head coach certainly noticed another aspect of Porter Jr.’s offseason work.

“He looks stronger,” Malone said. “I think you can tell that Michael Porter put a lot of time not just on the court, but in the weight room. So, you can tell he really worked his butt off this summer.”

There are several areas of the game in which strength plays a key role, most notably on the glass and working in the post. The 23-year-old forward has focused on continuing to improve in those areas of the floor, making strength a key focus in his preparation.

“I mean I just want to be able to do things for 82 games and really be more versatile than I already am,” Porter Jr. said Tuesday. “I think working from that mid-post is going to be important, especially down the stretch of games when it gets tough, being able to get some easier buckets in the post (will help). You know, I'm a good rebounder, so getting stronger will help me get more rebounds.”

Davon Reed makes an early impression

A familiar face at this year’s training camp is Davon Reed, who was a member of Denver’s 2021 Summer League squad.

Reed impressed back in August with his ability to knock down 3-pointers and provide energy on the defensive end, which carried into his first training camp practice with the Nuggets.

“He’s here in camp, and (I’m a) huge fan of his,” Malone said. “And here’s a guy that's been around, comes into camp, and is not afraid. (He’s) pushing the guy in front of him, making hustle plays, coming up with loose balls, just trying to do all the right things.”

The 26-year-old has played in 31 NBA games throughout his career, giving him the experience that he needs to thrive in training camp as he looks to crack an NBA roster for the upcoming season.

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