Malone's Minutes: Denver Nuggets coach dishes on Emmanuel Mudiay vs Ty Lawson match up

Nate Timmons Avatar
October 26, 2015


The Denver Nuggets will travel to Houston to face the Rockets on Oct. 28th in both teams 2015-16 debuts. After Nuggets practice today, Michael Malone was asked a variety of questions, and we’ll go over a couple of his responses and what they mean moving forward. The Nuggets match-up in Houston is an interesting one on a couple of different fronts. Last season, Houston captured the second seed in the Western Conference with a 56-26 record. James Harden led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals, the franchise’s first trip there since the 1996-97 season when they finished 57-25.

Another focal point of Malone’s media scrum today was Emmanuel Mudiay. We’ve seen the 19-year-old rookie struggle with ball pressure in the preseason, he committed 8 turnovers against Chris Paul and Pablo Prigioni of the Clippers, and his first test will come against defensive bulldog Patrick Beverley and the always speedy Ty Lawson (feels weird typing about Lawson on another team…).


Malone’s Minutes with the media: 

“Obviously, I think Ty will have a little added incentive,” said Malone, “a little extra giddy-up in his step, if you will. He’s uptempo, quick, puts pressure on you. It’s not just about James Harden, Ty Lawson is a very capable player. We have to be ready for that challenge, and Patrick Beverley off the bench – one of the best defensive guards in the NBA – much improved 3-point shooter. Our point guards: Emmanuel, Jameer, Erick, Randy, whoever is out there will have a challenge guarding both of those guys.”

There are a few interesting items in that above quote. First, it’s pretty great that Malone openly discussed Lawson’s motivation headed into his first game with a new team, and it just so happens that his first opponent is also his former team. Lawson hasn’t been shy about his displeasure in Denver and took to social media back in September to call out Josh Kroenke and Tim Connelly – you can read about that here. It’s fun when there’s a little more on the line than just the game, and opening night in Houston will mean a little something more for both Lawson and the Nuggets – and don’t think Lawson’s new teammates aren’t aware of what this game means to him.

It’s also noteworthy that Malone doesn’t like to tip his hand to the media about what his game plans are. Malone mentions Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Erick Green and Randy Foye as his point guards above, but it all likelihood only Mudiay and Nelson will see minutes at the point – Malone has already stated that he cannot play everybody and that’s a good thing.


“We know what Ty is going to try to do, from jump-street, he’s going to try to send a very loud message and good for him,” said Malone. “We’re going to try to send a message as well: We feel we have a hell of a player in Emmanuel. It’s not just about Emmanuel and Ty Lawson, obviously it’s Denver vs. Houston. This game is for real and [Mudiay] had a couple great practice tests in Steph [Curry], Russell [Westbrook], and Chris Paul. But now it’s opening night, I’m sure the nerves will be there to start, but once he settles down I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Malone is ultra competitive, from not wanting to tip his hand about who will start, to not laying down at the challenge of facing a team that appeared in the Western Conference Finals last season. Malone is letting us know that his team will be prepared when they fly to Houston on Tuesday, Oct. 27th. Coach made a note of informing us that the team had a sloppy practice today and how it can be difficult to get a team to refocus after taking a day off. He’s looking to motivate his team and it’d be great to be a fly on the wall in the Houston visiting locker room before tipoff. Even when Malone is critical, he follows that up with teaching. After calling his team’s start to the day “sloppy,” he made a point to say the guys “definitely picked it up in the second half of practice” and talked about the intensity the players brought.

While opening night in Houston isn’t all about Mudiay vs. Lawson, fans inside Nuggets Nation will certainly be tuning in to see how the rookie stacks up in his debut. As Malone noted, Mudiay got a quick look at three of the top point guards in the league in Paul, Curry and Westbrook. Against those teams Mudiay shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, committed an average of 5.0 turnovers and although he averaged 17.3 points it took him 16 shots per game to do so.

It has been said too many times already, but Mudiay will experience growing pains this season and beyond. CBS Sports’ Matt Moore posed a question to Jameer Nelson in a recent article about how long it takes to learn the point guard spot in the NBA. Moore noted that he once asked Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley that very question and Conley stated it took about four or five seasons, Nelson agreed. As Malone said about judging Gary Harris, give it time.

The pairing of Malone and Mudiay is a nice one though, we may wind up looking back on the two and think it was a match made in basketball-heaven.

Full Malone audio from BSN Denver’s Josh Dover: 


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