It’s like Christmas in September. Well, at least for me and my fellow hoop heads.
It was Media Day around the NBA, which meant it was the kickoff of the 2016/17 Denver Nuggets season, a season in which both hopes and expectations are high.
Don’t get crazy, though, the expectations are realistic for me. This team should be competing for a playoff spot this season, but it won’t be a favorable one. If the Nuggets are lucky, they’ll be fighting for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, a spot they finished eight games behind last season.
Emmanuel Mudiay may have said that he expects the team to be competing for the sixth seed, and I love the optimism, but a six seed might be a little out of reach in a tough Western Conference.
New year, new team, but, most importantly, SAME culture from a year ago. Josh Kroenke said it on Monday at media day, and it was what stood out most to me.
When asked about the culture and foundation of the team under Michael Malone he replied, “We began to build the foundation of where we want to be in three years last season.”
The culture change was a big point of conversation last season, and after the Brian Shaw experiment, a change is exactly what the Nuggets needed.
I was a big fan of Brian Shaw the person, but Brian Shaw the coach struggled immensely, hurting the organization on and off the court. Michael Malone, who is well respected around the league and a man that has been around the game literally his entire life, was the man responsible for that change.
I asked coach Malone what kind of role he expects second year player Emmanuel Mudiay to have this year and his response was brilliant:
“If he wants to talk the talk, then he has to walk the walk.”
Mudiay was later asked if an NBA team needed an alpha male to win in today’s league, a great question from Pat Graham of The Associated Press. His answer was yes, and the obvious follow up question was: Does this team have an alpha male, and if so, who is he?
“I am. I am an alpha player,” he replied.
The perfect answer. If you don’t think you are a great player, how can you expect to play great against the best basketball players in the world night in and night out?
Being such a young team in the NBA will have its pros and cons; we will get to see most of them play out on the floor this season. That said, the biggest pro, in my opinion, is something we may not see night in and night out, because it’s already happening: the culture.
A young team is an impressionable team, so the culture Josh Kroenke mentioned being built is already being put into the minds of the young Nuggets roster.