Denver Nuggets 2021 Training Camp Notebook: Day 3

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

SAN DIEGO - 2021 Training Camp rolled along for the Denver Nuggets Thursday, with just four days until the team’s first preseason game against the LA Clippers.

Preparations continued Thursday as the team went through several offensive sets in the halfcourt, prioritizing 3-pointers and shots at the rim, especially early in the shot clock.

Following practice, Head Coach Michael Malone and Monte Morris spoke to the media about guys finding a comfort zone and increased opportunities for several players due to injuries.

Unlocking Air Gordon

Aaron Gordon didn’t have much time to get adjusted to his new squad before the playoffs began last season. Gordon revealed that he spent the majority of last season battling nagging injuries that limited his movement, thus taking away a big part of his game.

However, the 26-year-old enters training camp in excellent shape and has begun to settle into his role, which should increase to start the season due to Jamal Murray’s absence. Gordon’s coach is certainly excited to see what he can add to the table this season.

“Aaron’s versatility is special,” Malone said Thursday. “When Aaron was in town this summer we spent time on the court talking about ways that we can put him in different positions and take advantage of his versatility, athleticism, and his ability to play off the bounce and to handle (the ball) in the pick and roll.”

When your offense is led by a seven-foot center handling the ball and initiating the offense, you tend to do some unique things on that end of the floor, which is what Denver has done in recent years. Integrating a player like Gordon into the mix will only further diversify Denver’s offensive attack in the upcoming campaign.

Morris embraces the opportunity

Although Malone didn’t reveal any starter at the point guard position Thursday, Morris is certainly in the mix to earn plenty of playing time and could see himself fitting in with that starting group until Murray returns.

Malone certainly has confidence in the 26-year-old guard, who is entering his fifth season in the league.

“I'm extremely confident in Monte’s ability,” Malone said following practice. “My conversations with him are ‘now if you're our starting point guard, finding your voice to lead a team.’”

Morris embraces the challenge of stepping up as a leader as he assumes a larger role within the rotation.

“I was always the guy that had to be vocal on a lot of my teams I was on,” Morris said. “Now with Jamal out I’ve got to step up and be a vocal leader and try to do what he did in terms of leadership.”

Morris averaged 10.5 points and 3.8 assists per game last season across 13 games as a starter. Look for the starting point guard position to be solidified throughout the preseason heading into the showdown against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 20.

Rivers gaining comfort

Another late-season addition during the 2020-21 campaign was Austin Rivers, who proved to be a timely pickup and help Denver win several close games down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.

One can’t forget the 16-point fourth quarter Rivers had in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers back in May, and now that the 29-year-old guard is back for a full season in the Mile High City, he’s gaining comfort within the system as he tries to carve out a role for himself.

The veteran guard is entering his 10th season in the league, making him able to adapt to any role and situation thrown at him on either end of the floor.

“Obviously, it's not just on offense,” Malone said Thursday. “I think Austin is an underrated defender. He's another guy with his quickness, his burst, and first step, he can get to places on the court. I know he's out here doing his thing. So, I'm happy that we had him last year and even happier that we were able to bring him back on board.”

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