Every year, roughly one month prior to the NBA regular season kicking off, the Denver Nuggets host an annual Media Day press conference. This event gives media from around the Denver metro area the opportunity to (kindly) interrogate the players, coaches and team executives about all things Nuggets in preparation for the upcoming season. This marks the second year in a row that Roundball Mining Company has had the privilege to attend Media Day, and just like last year there was a definitive buzz about the arena given the changes that took place during the offseason. Here is a recap of the day’s action…
Summer went by fast. And oh, what a summer it was. The former Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year — George Karl and Masai Ujiri — have been relieved of their duties and replaced by rookies at their positions. Brian Shaw is the new head coach; Tim Connelly the new general manager. Andre Iguodala, the leader of a vastly improved defense last year that helped the Nuggets win a franchise best 57 wins during the regular season, was also nowhere to be seen at Media Day this year. Looking at it from a far, from a fan’s perspective, you could very well make the case that over the summer the Nuggets lost their three most important pieces to their most successful regular season in franchise history.
And why? Well, there’s only one man who can answer that question. His name is Josh Kroenke. He was in charge of all the offseason maneuvering. But he wasn’t at the press conference today. And besides, there’s not much he could have said that hasn’t been said before. We know politics, money, and a lack of shrewdness overshadowed the simple ability to retain the best talent (no matter what position, on or off the floor) for the Nuggets franchise. That was lost this offseason, and now it’s up to Brian Shaw, Tim Connelly and the rest of the Nuggets roster to figure out some way to build on the meteoric momentum the Nuggets had under the previous regime.
Given this tall task, you’d think there would be a cloud of concern hanging over Pepsi Center on Monday morning. That wasn’t the case at all. Reporters asked many questions about how Shaw and Connelly would fill the shoes of their predecessors, and for the most part they got straight, honest answers from two seemingly intelligent individuals.
Shaw has made playoff success his personal touchstone. Whether this is a philosophy he’s adopted on his own after years of playoff success both as a coach and player, or him simply flexing his understanding of Karl’s track record in Denver — who’s to say? The bottom line is that he’s getting it right. Connelly on the other hand… well, he’s a bit more reserved. He often deferred to Shaw but still capitalized on several opportunities to display his wit, humility and knowledge of basketball. That’s about all I can say about him.
In the end, both guys gave solid introductory speeches. Their character was manifested, as was their sense of humor and passion for the game. While they may not be Masai Ujiri or Phil Jackson, neither gave me reason to believe the sky was falling. And if there’s one thing I took from the Nuggets press conference, it’s was exactly that: that after such a demoralizing offseason in which the Nuggets lost their lone superstar (Masai Ujiri), second winningest coach in franchise history and best defensive player since Marcus Camby, that life will go on, and it may go on a lot better than most Nuggets fans expected. This new regime may not ever live up to the previous one, Connelly and Shaw may not be superstars at their respective positions, but as of right now we have absolutely no reason to believe they’ll run this franchise into the ground. These guys are smart. They’re skilled. And they understand what it takes to succeed. Just like any new employee, they deserve a chance, and from what they’ve shown thus far we should all be more than willing to give it to them.
What part of your game did you work on most this past summer?
Lawson: Off-the-dribble shooting. Just trying to get my shot off quicker. I’m trying to make it from the 3-point line.
Foye: Everything man. I worked on shooting, ball handling, my body. I’ve just been doing what I’ve been doing. It really didn’t change much. I know what it takes. This is my eighth year in the NBA.
Fournier: Ball handling and shooting.
Robinson: Endurance, my lungs. Just getting ready for this altitude. I ran about two miles three days a week and rode the bike a lot. Just running a lot and getting my body right.
McGee: I worked on mid-range, and I worked on being more patient with my back to the basket.
Randolph: I’m just working on everything, trying to come back and build on what little I did last season.
Chandler: A lot of ball handling. A lot of one-two-dribble pull ups. A lot of stuff I needed to improve on from last year.
Mozgov: Mid-range. I tried to improve my post game. Pick-and-roll. I tried to work on everything. That’s what you have to do, you have to improve on everything.
What have been your first impressions of Brian Shaw, and how does he differ from George Karl?
Lawson: He’s probably more laid back, but more in your face in a good way to tell you what you did wrong and what you need to do to improve it. He’s probably more of a player’s coach too. He’s gonna help out JaVale and Kenneth, just him being a player and being able to relate more.
Foye: Strong. He’s been there before. His demeanor is all about winning. He’s not a guy who yells or screams but he definitely gets his point across.
Fournier: That’s a tough question man [laughs]. My first impression was great. He was a player. He’s cool. He has a lot of experience. He knows the game. I think he’s closer to the players because he’s younger. He’s just younger.
Robinson: I watched coach Shaw play against some of the greats. He’s a great player and great defender. He always played hard and always took the challenge of guarding the best guys on the other team.
McGee: He’s a great guy. Real calm. Real positive. I just feel like he’s a straight shooter, and I appreciate that. I definitely think he’s more of a player’s coach than George Karl was. The things he says and the things he does really appeal to the players. I don’t know if it’s the age gap or the fact he played for a calm coach, but it’s definitely a positive thing.
Randolph: Brian Shaw is probably more of a player’s coach. He’s a teacher, and he’s very knowledgeable about the game. I was just talking with somebody about how he’s been around greats, playing and also coaching. So he knows his stuff.
Chandler: He’s just a real laid back kind of guy. A real cool, player’s coach. He’s very one-on-one oriented.
Mozgov: He’s a young coach. He says not to rush, to take your time. He understands what each player needs.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, both personally and has a team?
Lawson: Just to be an All-Star, man. I wanna raise my statistics in every category.
Foye: My personal goal is just to be successful in all the areas that I’ve been successful at in the past. Our team goal is just to get to the playoffs and get out of the first round.
Fournier: Obviously it’s going to be hard to win 57 games like last year, but I still think we’ll have a very good team. We’ll be very competitive. Then for me, I hope to be very good for this team, to play a very important role and to play more than last year.
Robinson: As a team, we just want to win as many games as we can. We want to continue to hold it down at home and have the best home record in the NBA. In the playoffs, we want that championship. We want to make it out of the first round and be playing our best basketball towards the end of the season. For myself, I just want to come in and play hard, win Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, league MVP off the bench, shoot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, 90 percent from the free-throw line, I want to have one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios, more steals, more buckets, everything. I just want to do everything better than last year.
McGee: To average a double-double and lead the NBA in blocked shots.
Randolph: My personal goal is to just be the best basketball player that I can be this season. Our team goal, of course, is to get to the playoffs and win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal.
Chandler: Personally, if I can just stay healthy a lot of things should fall into place and we can go further than we have in the past seasons. I just want to stay healthy. As far as the team goes, we just want to do the same things we did last year but get out of the first round and make it far into the playoffs.
Mozgov: I want to go hard. I want to be a good defender and have good offense. No injuries too.
What’s getting the most play on your iPod right now?
Lawson: Right now it’s probably the Drake album. Probably more Chief Keef too.
Foye: Probably that new Drake. I’m an east coast dude, so I love Jay-Z, J. Cole, Nas. But I like everything and I respect good rap.
Fournier: It’s more French albums. Drake’s a big one around here. I like rap.
Robinson: Besides my brother, Anthony, his name’s AS, I listen to Drake, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, 2 Chains. Honestly, all music.
McGee: I listen to everything, to tell you the truth. But probably Drake the most right now.
Randolph: Lil Boosie. A little old school stuff. Stuff from Louisiana.
Chandler: A lot of Pusha T, a lot of A$AP Mob, a lot of Jay-Z, Drake, Future, a lot of old-school rap also.
Mozgov: Usually Russian stuff. Everything. Old school, new school, pop, rock, rap — everything.
What was the last movie you saw?
Lawson: Baggage Claim. It was pretty good. It was funny.
Foye: World War Z with Brad Pitt. It was a good movie.
Fournier: I don’t know, but I’m watching Sons of Anarchy. I just finished five seasons in eight days. My girl watches Breaking Bad and she keeps telling me the story so I don’t need to watch it.
Robinson: World War Z. It was awesome.
McGee: Uh, I don’t want to shoot down his ratings because I saw it before it came out, but uh… man… what was it? Ah, I can’t remember.
Randolph: The last movie I saw? I don’t know, it’s been a while.
Chandler: I watched Lord of War last night. It was pretty good.
Mozgov: Let me think… The last movie I saw? It’s about a guy who shoots pictures… I forget.