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“I really don’t give a shit”: How (most of) the Nuggets are brushing off national praise after 4-0 start

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 25, 2018

LOS ANGELES — The Nuggets have much loftier goals for this season than a four-game winning streak in late October. But it’s impossible not to notice Denver’s 4-0 start to the year — its best since 2009-10 — and the early-season exposure it’s given an organization that’s lived on the back burner of the national NBA conversation for the last few years.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone has bigger things on his plate than early-season chatter, like how to stop the LeBron James and the Lakers on Thursday night.

“I really don’t give a shit. Really,” Malone said of the recognition the Nuggets have gotten for their 4-0 start. “We’re 4-0 We have 78 games to go. What we’re embracing is trying to be the best team we can be.

“We’re not too concerned about what everybody’s saying about us nationally.”

Like it or not, a win over the Lakers, in a high profile, nationally televised matchup, would increase the somewhat dim but still noticeable NBA spotlight that’s currently cast on Denver. A 5-0 mark to start the season, with another marquee matchup on tap Monday against the Pelicans, the Western Conference’s other only other unbeaten team, would draw a few sets of eyeballs from around the league too.

Count Nikola Jokic as someone else who isn’t preoccupied with the praise his team has gotten from its opening week. Jokic won the league’s Player of the Week award for the 26.3 points (63.2 percent shooting from the field, 50.0 percent from three), 10.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks he averaged over Denver’s first three games. Jokic also became the first player ever to record a 30-plus point triple-double on 11 or fewer FG attempts and joined Wilt Chamberlain as one of just two players to post 30-plus point triple-double without missing a shot.

Jokic has helped Denver to the second-best point differential in the league.

“The whole team is playing really good,” Jokic said. “The big thing about our team is that we have five, six players who can go off and score 20, 25, 30 so that’s really hard to guard. This week was my week, so someone else is probably going to step next couple of games.”

While most of the Nuggets will shrug off the recognition for their undefeated start, Jamal Murray’s a fan of an early-season spotlight.

“I like it. I don’t look for it, but it’s good to get some recognition that we’re one of the top teams in the league and one of the top up and coming teams in the league,” Murray told BSN Denver. “That we have a  great core and we have a great group.”

Murray has had an up-and-down start to his third season. He has played through two tweaked ankles and is shooting under 40 percent from the field and just 32 percent from three but got hot in the third quarter of Tuesday’s win over the Kings, scoring 14 of his team-high 19 points in a nine-minute spurt.

“I was playing free,” Murray said. “I wanted to come out aggressive and stuff, but the fouls kind of held me back for the first half. I just wanted to make sure I kept my confidence up.

How locked in is the 21-year-old for tonight’s TNT matchup? At the end of most Nuggets practices, Murray ends his shooting routine by making at least 20 free-throws in a row. At shootaround, over eight hours before tip-off, Murray stood at the foul line with assistant coach Charles Klask as the rest of his teammates headed back to the team hotel and sunk 46 free throws in a row. Far from his personal record of 270 but a solid feat none the less.

Is this a game you get up for? Murray was asked, in reference to the worldwide audience who will be tuning in, James’ presence in Los Angeles and the history he’s had with Lonzo Ball, Luke Walton and the Lakers dating back to last season.

“Get up? I mean, yeah, just being more attentive. I like to compete. I like to go against the best,” Murrays said. “LeBron’s one of the best, so I like to go against his mind as a young mind myself and see if we can come out with the win in a great arena with a lot of fans.”

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