Malone Puts Focus Back on Positivity, Achieving Goals
On Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s docket Sunday morning were a series of chats. His team needed it.
“I think we’re going through a tough patch,” Malone said.
So, he started with a few players in his office. It was 45 minutes of individual meetings with players like Will Barton, Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokić. Malone chatted up other players as well during warmups, practice and post-practice.
“The more I do that, especially right now in this stretch, is really important because they have to know that, okay, we’re going through it but we’re all together, we’re all staying unified,” Malone said. “When teams lose, it can get ugly in a hurry. We don’t have that type of a group.”
The Nuggets are 4-6 in the last 10 games and stand at 23-23 overall, currently ninth in the Western Conference playoff race. While the Nuggets have lost some ground, they remain in a group where just three games separate the fifth through ninth teams.
It is a packed race, to be sure. And the Nuggets are in the thick of it.
“The one thing that really hit me (Saturday) as I thought about it, as I reflected, as I talked to my coaches is, during this time, the energy I give my team is so important,” Malone said. “And as frustrated as you are, I came into today and sincerely…I’m positive. I have to be. We’re 23-23, we have 36 games to go. We’re in a good position. Everything we talked about accomplishing is still right in front of us. Now, obviously we have to start taking advantage of things and moving in the right direction. But, now is not the time to panic. Now is not the time to be negative.
Now is not the time to set (that) example to these guys because if I do that, we’ve got such a young team playing meaningful minutes, they’re going to do that. So, today was about meeting with guys one-on-one. Today was about uplifting guys, looking at all of the positive things that we’ve done and then learning from the mistakes that we’ve been making. It’s not an easy position to be in. But, then again, where we’re at, I think there’s a lot of great things still left for this team with 36 games to go.”
The Nuggets are in the midst of a five-game home stand that continues on Monday against Portland. Asked if he or the team feels the pressure of a playoff race, guard Will Barton said no.
“I don’t feel no pressure,” Barton said. “Just get it done. Pressure is something that you feel when you aren’t prepared for something – you’ve got a test and you didn’t study for it. That’s pressure. We work hard. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to handle business. Ain’t no pressure. It’s either get it done, or don’t.”
Malone highlighted the journey.
“As I told our guys, no one said it was going to be easy,” he said. “Back in Boulder, no one said, ‘hey, it’s going to be easy this year.’ Making the playoffs is hard. That’s the goal that we’ve given ourselves. But when you lose (Paul) Millsap and you have injuries and you’re as young as you are, it’s hard, and it’s a challenge, and it should be. Everything worthy of attaining should be a challenge. The journey will define us as a team, and will help us grow up and mature and will be a great experience for all of our young guys.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter