As season approaches, Nuggets look to start on fast track

Schedule provides opportunity for Denver to enjoy early success
by Aaron Lopez

In their quest to compete for a Northwest Division title and an 11th straight playoff appearance, the Denver Nuggets want to put themselves on the fast track to success.

“We don’t want to start off behind the pack, especially in the deep West,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson said. “The first five games are going to be important for all of us.”

Starting with Wednesday’s season-opening game at Sacramento, the schedule sets up favorably for Denver under first-year coach Brian Shaw.

After facing the Kings, the Nuggets return to Pepsi Center to play five of their next seven games at home. The stretch begins with a three-game homestand that opens Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“It’s time to get it rolling for the regular season and get this first win,” Nuggets guard Nate Robinson said. “It’s always key to start the season the right way.”

Shaw would love to see his young team get an early season confidence boost, but he’s still not sure who will be available for the opener.

Starting point guard Ty Lawson (groin strain) and starting shooting guard Randy Foye (bruised hip) sat out practice Monday, and forward Wilson Chandler (hamstring strain) remains out indefinitely.

“I’m going into the game with the mindset that the guys that have been out of practice injured are not going to play,” Shaw said. “It’s that simple. Ty was out, Wilson was out, Randy was out. They would have to get a practice in for me to feel comfortable with them playing in the game.”

Shaw was encouraged by the return of power forward Kenneth Faried, who missed the final three preseason games with a strained hamstring. Faried was limited in practice Sunday but took part in full-court 5-on-5 work Monday.

“Kenneth is back,” Shaw said. “He had good energy in practice. It looks like he’s up to speed.”

Because he is just returning from injury, Faried likely will come off the bench against Sacramento. J.J. Hickson would start at the power forward spot after averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in the preseason.

“J.J. was probably one of our most consistent –if not best player – throughout the preseason in terms of the way he rebounded the ball and scored for us,” Shaw said. “Right now, I would say J.J. gets the nod, especially with Kenneth just now getting back into the fold.”