With preseason in past, Nuggets prepare for real deal

Denver still without a few key players as season-opener approaches
by Aaron Lopez

Clean slate.

After seven preseason games, the Denver Nuggets began preparing for the real deal Sunday as they went through the first of three practices leading up to the season-opener Wednesday at Sacramento.

“It was definitely different today,” coach Brian Shaw said. “I let them know my tone is going to be different. I’m going to be a little shorter in terms of my tolerance for some of the mistakes that we’re making. It’s time to tighten everything up and get everything in order.”

The preparation was hampered somewhat by the limited participation by forward Kenneth Faried (hamstring strain) and the absence of point guard Ty Lawson (adductor muscle group strain) and Wilson Chandler (hamstring strain).

Faried hopes to increase his activity in the next two practices, while Lawson said he wasn’t sure when he would return to the court. Chandler did not appear in any of Denver’s preseason games and is awaiting clearance to practice.

“I’m still wondering what it will be like when we do have everybody back,” Shaw said. “I’m starting to really become familiar with the medical terminology in terms of injuries.”

Regardless of who is available Wednesday, the Nuggets will look to start the season on a winning note when they face the Kings. It will be the first regular-season game for Shaw, who spent the past nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “You practice all week. The games are a test. Same way in school. You do homework all week long and usually at the end of the week you have a quiz to show that you’ve retained all the information that you’ve been given.”

The Nuggets have two more days to study before their first test of 2013-14.

Until then, here is a look at how each of the players on Denver’s 15-man roster fared during the preseason:

Darrell Arthur – Missed two games after being slowed by a bruised quad midway through training camp. Knocked down a couple shots in preseason finale against Chicago and remains a steadying force on defense.

Wilson Chandler – Strained his left hamstring on the second day of training camp and did not appear in any preseason games. He is expected to play a big role at both ends of the floor and the main priority is getting him healthy for the regular season.

Kenneth Faried – Enjoyed his best game of the preseason when he scored 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting against San Antonio, but strained a hamstring in practice on Oct. 17. Missed Denver’s final four preseason games but is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener on Wednesday.

Evan Fournier – Showed consistency throughout the preseason, finishing as team’s fifth-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game. He also limited his mistakes, committing only six turnovers in seven games.

Randy Foye – Started all seven games at shooting guard but struggled to find a rhythm from 3-point range. Had similar results last preseason and then went on to set a Utah franchise-record with 178 3s.

Danilo Gallinari – Continues his recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee. Strengthening the knee in the weight room but no timetable for his return.

Jordan Hamilton – Started two games but struggled to find his shooting touch throughout the preseason. Depending on injuries, his playing time early in the season could be limited.

J.J. Hickson – One of Denver’s top players in the preseason, averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in 22.7 minutes. Hickson has the ability to start alongside center JaVale McGee or provide production off the bench.

Ty Lawson – Led the Nuggets in assists (5.1) and shot 50 percent from the field in the preseason while adapting to coach Brian Shaw’s new offensive system. He will be in line to play 35 minutes a game as Denver’s quarterback and catalyst.

JaVale McGee – Led Denver in scoring (11.3) and rebounding (6.6) in the preseason while averaging 23.6 minutes per game. Spent much of training camp working on developing his low-post game as Nuggets search for interior presence.

Andre Miller –Outside of a 36-minute night against the L.A. Clippers, the veteran had a light workload during the preseason. He is a steadying force that Shaw can turn to at any point of a game.

Quincy Miller – Drew praise from Shaw throughout training camp as he battled for a spot in the rotation. Game results were mixed, and he likely will need a little more time before being called upon regularly in the regular season.

Timofey Mozgov – Led the team with 10 blocked shots in the preseason as he looked to establish himself the backup center. Still needs to limit turnovers and finish with consistency around the rim.

Anthony Randolph – Enjoyed a great training camp and it carried over to the games as he averaged 10 points on .448 shooting. Based on his hard work and consistency, there should be a rotation spot when the season opens in Sacramento.

Nate Robinson – Missed two games while nursing a strained hamstring, which might have contributed to a .250 shooting percentage in the preseason. Nuggets will look to him for instant scoring and playmaking off the bench.