Though only two official days of training camp has been completed by the Denver Nuggets, new head coach Michael Malone is already seeing dividends of the seeds that have been planted in offseason work.
During media time at the Nuggets’ temporary home at the United States Olympic Committee training center in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Malone stressed the evolving definition of the team’s culture and identity.
“Being here (in Colorado Springs) gives us a chance to get away, be together, and bond,” Malone said. “We’ve been in practice in Denver all month (September). Last night, during the team dinner, we talked about culture and identity and I think they’ve bought into the fact that we need to be a ‘work team.’ Everything we do, we do with a purpose. This is a team that is buying in and willing to do what it takes to be relevant and competitive in the Western Conference.”
During the team’s media day gathering on Monday, Malone discussed the importance of having his team voluntarily fill the Nuggets’ gym in Denver throughout September. It was a point that Malone reemphasized in Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
“The work we put in in September allows us to hit the ground running and build on a foundation,” Malone said. “I like the mindset I’ve seen in practice. They are locked in mentally. There are a lot of mental components to this game and they’re working on those.”
Malone’s emphasis on defense has stood out during the early stages of practice, according to J.J. Hickson.
“We know that the teams who play defense win,” said Hickson, who is entering his third season with the Nuggets. “Playing defense is going to be a main focus for us throughout the season.”
Another focus for Malone in training camp is conditioning, especially at the higher altitude offered in Colorado Springs.
“Everybody says they want to run more, but you have to be in shape to run more,” Malone smiled. “The higher altitude here allows us to get into the shape we need to be in to be a running team.
“Every day in October for us is training camp. It doesn’t end until we open up with Houston. Are we getting better every day? Every day is a measuring stick for us and our goal is to get better every day.”