For the first time in Roundball Mining Company history a member of our team — yours truly — was able to attend Nuggets Media Day. It was an incredible, eye-opening experience and we cannot thank the Nuggets organization enough for allowing us the opportunity to gain this type of coverage of the team we all love most. I was able to score eight one-on-one interviews with various team members. Here is how it went…
Fournier was first. He was extremely amiable. I was nervous, being that this was my first interview ever with a Nuggets player, but he made the experience very pleasant and enjoyable. He talked openly about how happy he is right now. “I feel great in Denver,” Fournier said. “It’s a big city but it’s also kind of small. I really enjoy it. I have a house and a dog. That’s the perfect life for me.”
Here’s the thing about interviewing people that I’m kind of learning: You can get a pretty damn good idea of who someone is in a really short amount of time, and what I gathered from Fournier is that he’s precocious. For a 19-year-old kid — a foreigner living halfway around the world from his birthplace, nonetheless — he seemed pretty damn cheerful. I just received a good vibe from him, one that makes me trust his judgement — which is usually good for basketball things.
As for his role on the team this year, Fournier said, “I don’t know. That will be decided in training camp. I just know that every time I’m on the court I have to give 100 percent. We’ll see. I’m just gonna play hard and we’ll find out.”
Andre Miller is the very definition of a veteran. The guy is on his thousandth rodeo by now. He talked a lot about health. He thinks staying healthy is the key to the Nuggets success this year. He also said something that I found interesting in regards to team chemistry: “We have good guys with good attitudes who are committed to the team,” Miller said. “Normally you have do deal with a lot of egos when you have this much talent. We have good, positive types of guys.”
Miller said he wants to be a leader and that staying mentally tough throughout the highs and lows of the 82-game season is what’s going to prepare them most for the Playoffs. I couldn’t agree more. The Nuggets haven’t exactly had the most fortitude in the Playoffs over the last handful of years (see: Anthony, Carmelo and “quitting”) and it seems to sometimes be reflected in the regular season. If this year’s team can play with resiliency throughout tough stretches of the regular season, it will better prepare them for the Playoffs, where things will get much more difficult.
I asked Miller what it was like playing for George Karl. He said, “The main thing is he gives you the opportunity to go out there and do what you’ve been working on. He lets you make mistakes and learn from them at the same time. He understands where players are in their careers and what they can do on the court.”
Miller also said he likes the new uniforms and that he and Andre Iguodala “play well off each other.”
Gallinari was pretty much mauled by reporters (as was Lawson and Iguodala) when he first came out. I missed about half his interview but caught up with him afterwords. He talked a lot about his injuries, which he claims he is fully healed from, and how he wants to get better this season. “I want to improve my stats,” Gallinari said. “I want to improve in any part: assists, rebounds and points. If we can win and I can improve at the same time that will be great.” I asked him how he’d feel if he made the All-Star team. He smiled, then sternly straightened up and said, “It’s not one of my goals but if I make it’s going to be unbelievable.”
You could tell by the way he talked about improving that he genuinely wants to get better. You can really see it. Gallinari wants to be the best player he can be. I truly believe that.
Losing to the Lakers last year bothered him too. “The week after the Lakers series was tough because I love basketball, I live my life for basketball, so when things don’t go your way it doesn’t take one day to forget everything,” Gallinari said.
Over the summer Gallo tried to improve in many different areas, especially his long-range shooting. “I worked on a lot of things,” Gallinari said. “I was playing with the national team so I didn’t focus on one thing. But I tried to improve my 3-point shot. I did a lot of good things last year and improved in a lot of ways. My 3-pont shot was always one of my strengths and last year it wasn’t a great percentage. This year has to be better.”
Gallinari simply has so much talent, which Nuggets fans saw on full display for the first half of last season. If he can pick up where he left off at All-Star break last year, this team can be dangerous.
“It’s tough to see a ceiling with this team,” Gallinari said. “We can be a very good team. It’s up to us.”
Randolph echoed Gallinari and Andre Miller’s sentiments. “The sky’s the limit,” Randolph said. “Hopefully we don’t get plagued with a lot of injuries this year. From there, if we can stay healthy there’s no telling what could happen.”
I asked Randolph about playing in Minnesota last year, to which he replied, “It was a good experience. I learned a lot.” Randolph meant it too. He seemed very honest about where he is as a player and what he needs to do in order to see court time. “I think it’s gonna be a good year,” Randolph said. “Right now I’m just looking to come in and help out Kenneth as much as I can. All I have to do is just work hard. How hard I work will determine how much I play.”
Randolph is without question one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets squad. You get the feeling he could either be a solid rotation guy or buried on the far end of Karl’s bench for all eternity. I want so badly for him to find a spot with this team, as he’s teeming with talent and is the perfect fit for the type of system the Nuggets implement. We’ve seen the change McGee has made in only six months. Lets just hope Randolph can re-learn different fundamentals of basketball in that short amount of time as well.
Mozgov was probably the most cryptic of all Nuggets interviews, and in more ways than one. He was a nice guy, very interested in talking about basketball — I just couldn’t understand him all that well. Even when I went back and listened to his interview I had a hard time deciphering complete sentences. This isn’t his fault; he has a thick accent, deep voice and is clearly still learning the English language. Needless to say, I couldn’t come up with very many quotes.
He did like playing in the Olypmics this year — that I could understand. “The Olympic games were a great experience,” Mozgov said. He smiled when talking about it and seemed very enthusiastic. It was nice seeing him show that much pride in his home country.
When I asked Mozgov about his minutes he immediately brought up Koufos saying,”I think me and Kosta, we’re a different type of player.” I asked him if he battles hard in practice with Koufos, to which he laconically replied, “Yes.” I then asked him who wins. He said, “I don’t know. Ask Kosta.”
Mozgov also became very sprightly when talking about the Playoffs. He played well against the Lakers last year, so perhaps he feels a bit of a connection there. “I think we can make it back to the Playoffs this year but we have so many new teammates that it’s hard to tell where we’ll be,” Mozgov said.
Hamilton was another fun interview. He seemed eager to field questions and had a visible energy about him. I asked him what he worked on this summer to which he replied, “A little bit of everything. I mixed it up. The main thing I did was get in great shape — lots of jump shots this summer, working on my quickness so I can guard guys better.”
I told him he was one of the most impressive guys at Summer League. He laughed, and thanked me for the kind words, then said, “The main thing was just to get better — show them that I could really play. We didn’t have a full training camp or Summer League last year so I thought that was the time to show them what I could really do.”
As for his role this year: “I think I can help with 3-point shooting and scoring,” Hamilton said. “If I can just make threes and get to the rim, that’s how I can help. They said they want me to play some stretch four. One of my main focuses over the last couple of months was guarding guys, getting better on defense. Whatever role they want me to do, I’m gonna do it.”
We then talked about football, how he’s a Jets fan and that he really didn’t even start following football until he went to school at Texas. I told him his parents hit the genetic lottery having three kids ranked as top 15 recruits in their high school class. He thought that was pretty funny, but got serious and said as long as his siblings worked hard, they’d have a great chance of making it to the NBA like he did.
Stone is the man. He just gets it. As long as he’s on your team, you’re not gonna have to worry about him getting in trouble, placing the blame on other people or slacking off in practice. All he cares about is winning and playing the game the right way. And he’s tall; way taller than I thought. He’s listed at 6-6, but man, I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped out at 6-7 or taller with shoes on.
Stone said the recovery from his hip injury is “coming along better than expected.” He said he worked out a lot this summer, mostly on his shooting but also on his finishing. “Me being athletic and all, I feel like I could use my athleticism when I score,” Stone said. “Instead of trying to lay it up on everybody I’m gonna try to crush it on ‘em.”
That is awesome. As Bill Walton would say: Throw it down big man, throw it down.
Stone said one part of his game he keyed in on this summer was the mental side. “More than anything this summer, I was just making sure that mentally, my confidence is where it needs to be,” Stone said. This kind of went hand-in-hand with what he said about his potential role this year:
“Whatever role they give me I’m gonna do. As long as we win I’m good. I’ve worked on my game so much this summer that I want to contribute. But my main focus is whatever they need. If it’s defensive stopper — that’s what I love to do. If it’s someone who distributes or scores — whatever it takes for us to win, I’ll do it. That’s been my MO: Do whatever the team needs.”
I asked Stone about his future with the Nuggets being that he’s in the final year of his contract. “I would love to be here” Stone said. “I feel like it’s a great place. The guys and organization are made up of great people. You don’t find that everyday. They gave me an opportunity when nobody else did.”
As for the Playoffs and team expectations this year: “We can do something,” Stone said. “We definitely can. We have all the pieces and I believe we’re hard working. If everybody comes together we’ll be good.
Iguodala was by far the funniest player at Media Day. He was extremely laid back and spent a good portion of his time laughing with the media about some pretty random stuff. He said he likes rap music but, “it’s gotta have some substance.” Then he talked about watching golf all weekend and how he couldn’t believe the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post asked him about his golf game. He said if by golf he meant barely making contact with the ball, then yeah, he plays it. He also went on a rant about flopping and the difference between European floppers and American floppers. He said, “I’ve never been a fan of flopping. There’s some American guys in the league who don’t even flop, they just scream.” Someone asked him about watching the Lakers-Nuggets Game 7 replay and he seemed genuinely upset that NBATV showed more Lakers runs than Nuggets runs — which was really, really good to hear.
As for basketball-related issues, here are his best quotes while I was present:
On the trade: “I knew this was kind of brewing for a while now, the organization trying to acquire myself.”
On being a leader: “You have to have a happy medium as far as showing them the hard work first. Then you gotta lead by example, actually playing the game. Then you gotta be vocal. I’ve always tried to find a happy medium. It’s more difficult than you think.”
On playing in the West: “I’ve always felt more comfortable, more offensive minded playing against west-coast teams. It should be a plus for me in that aspect.”
On the difference between this year and others: “Mentally I’m in a better place. I’m really just happy kind of getting a fresh start.”
On how he likes Denver: “It’s really nice. I gotta adjust to it. It’s a weird adjustment but it’s a good adjustment. Everybody is smiling at you; everybody is saying hi. It’s the weirdest thing ever. Philly is kind of like, be on guard, have your hands ready.”
Lastly, in case you haven’t seen them yet, here are the new alternate Nuggets uniforms which will be worn on 18 different occasions this year: