Call it the calm after the storm.
After five-plus months of what coach George Karl would politely describe as “craziness,” the Nuggets are enjoying a rare four-day break to get healthy and get on the same page for the final 18 games of the regular season.
“It’s nice to be in kind of a relaxed atmosphere in the middle of a crazy year,” Karl said after a light practice Monday.
Two weeks removed from the trade that brought Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov to Denver, the Nuggets (37-27) have had precious little practice time.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the results on the court. The Nuggets are 5-2 since the trade and have moved from seventh to fifth in the Western Conference.
Denver has succeeded by sharing the ball on offense and playing sound fundamentally on defense, so Karl plans to use the practice days to fine-tune some thing at both ends.
“Our desire is probably to get more together offensively, more flow, more comfort with each other,” he said. “Our defense has improved, but we’ve still had holes in the last couple games that we can get better at.”
Injuries forced the Nuggets to fill two holes Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Gallinari missed his fourth straight game with a broken left big toe, while starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo sat out the second half with a strained left hamstring.
Afflalo hopes to return Thursday when the Nuggets play at Phoenix, but Gallinari ruled himself out against the Suns.
“It’s not a possibility,” he said. “We’re not that close to playing.”
Gallinari said he remains unable to run or jump without pain. He has been doing his cardio workouts on a stationary bike and elliptical machine.
“Can’t do more than that,” he said. “I cannot really jump, so I just stand and shoot.”
The Nuggets could have used Gallinari’s shooting stroke against the Clippers. They shot .392 from the field, marking just the fourth time this season being held under .400; two of those games have been against the Clippers.
A full week of practice should help avoid a repeat Thursday against Phoenix.
“The focus is just getting everybody on the same page with the plays,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “We have a lot of new players and it takes a little time to learn them. The more we play together, the better we know each other.”
ETC: The Suns will be without sharp-shooting forward Channing Frye when Denver visits Phoenix this week. Frye, who is averaging 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, dislocated his right shoulder Sunday against Oklahoma City … The four-day break will give Denver’s new players a chance to look for a place to live. They have been residing in a hotel for nearly two weeks … Much of Monday’s practice was spent on shooting drills, and Karl is hoping to get some 5-on-5 work in Tuesday and Wednesday.