The Denver Nuggets opened training camp Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. After a Media Day full of discussions on continuity, championship aspirations and a continued focus on defense, the players were able to go through their first official practice of the season.
Although the majority of the team returned from last season, there are several new faces going through their first camp with the Nuggets. From established players such as Jerami Grant to young newcomers such as Bol Bol and Tyler Cook, there is still some integration that is needed.
READ More: Takeaways from Media Day
With that being said, let’s take a look at some key takeaways from the first day of camp as the Nuggets work towards being a true championship contender.
1) “Now, we’re going to be a team that’s hunted”
After winning 54 games and advancing to the Western Conference semifinals, the narrative surrounding the Nuggets has changed heading into the 2019-20 season. With increased success comes higher expectations, which head coach Michael Malone is certainly aware of as he prepares his team for the upcoming season.
“Because of the season that we had, we have to know that we’re going to be a team that’s hunted, unlike being the hunter last season,” Malone said following Tuesday’s practice. “We can't just relax. Things can change quickly in the NBA, so we can’t just show up and think we’ll go from point A to B.”
Veteran forward Paul Millsap acknowledged the change in status for the Nuggets but was also quick to remind that the team still has goals to accomplish. “You know, we want to be hunted, but we haven't accomplished anything yet to be hunted, so we’re still hunters. We’re still hungry and we still want to build things that will take us to the next level.”
2) Altered preseason preparation for Jokić, Hernangomez, Millsap
Nikola Jokić and Juancho Hernangomez were active this summer on the court. Both players participated in the FIBA World Cup tournament, with Hernangomez capturing the gold medal with Spain. As a result, the two players haven’t enjoyed as much down time as players typically do in August and September, which is in Malone’s mind as the team prepares for a grueling NBA regular season.
When asked about potential rest for Jokić, Malone said he has been talking with the Serbian big man to ensure that he is able to rest when he needs to. Malone also said Jokić will likely sit out one or two preseason games in order to balance playing time with rest ahead of the regular season opener.
The same plan will be applied to Hernangomez and Millsap, who is preparing for his 14th season in the league.
3) Jerami Grant enjoys first practice with the Nuggets
Denver’s marquee addition of the offseason came in the form of Jerami Grant, a versatile defender at the forward position. Grant joined Denver after playing several seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that ran an offensive system predicated on isolation plays, which is a stark contrast to the Nuggets’ sets centered on ball-movement.
Although he admitted the altitude has affected him early on in his workouts, Grant expressed his excitement for joining this Nuggets squad. “Everybody's been accommodating,” Grant said following practice. “Guys have been teaching me the plays and about the organization in general.”
Grant’s ability to defend multiple positions on defense and hit 3-pointers on offense should provide a big boost for Denver’s bench unit in the upcoming campaign.