SAN DIEGO — Nikola Jokic said at Nuggets Media Day on Monday that he touched a basketball only “a couple times” all offseason.
Of course, that wasn’t true. Jokic said on Tuesday that he followed the same offseason regiment this summer that he’s used over the last five years.
“He still looks like the best player in the world,” Reggie Jackson said today after the Nuggets’ first training camp practice.
And with that, the Nuggets’ pursuit of another Larry O’Brien trophy is officially off and running.
Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the rest of the Nuggets got back to basics on Day 1 of training camp. Denver worked on fundamentals, drill work, defensive positioning, and their basic offensive sets. This is a veteran team coming off a championship with a two-time MVP, the same starting five as last season, and a ninth-year, championship-winning head coach. But they’re not skipping steps.
“If we’re going to try and be a team that can repeat. If we’re going to try and be a team that can be a dynasty, like Golden State, like San Antonio, we have to have a standard of excellence each and every day,” Michael Malone said.
It’s the second straight day that Malone mentioned a “dynasty.” And make no mistake. That’s what this team has its sights set on.
Calvin Booth drafting three players in the top 37 picks of the draft confirmed that while Denver has its focus on another championship this season, the organization wants to extend its window well into the future.
Here’s more from San Diego.
Jokic’s busy offseason
I bet you didn’t have this on your offseason Jokic bingo card. Between watching his horses race, partying with the Serbian national team after the FIBA World Cup, and front-flipping off rafts into a river back home, Jokic found time to re-watch some of the Nuggets’ championship run.
“Sometimes,” Jokic said when asked if he watched his highlights from the playoffs. “I think it’s cool just to see how we won it. I think it was a really nice run. Some people say it’s a historic run. I think it’s a really good quality of basketball. If you like basketball, I think it’s just really nice to watch it.”
Christian Braun’s ascension
On Media Day, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth said Christian Braun is an “apples to apples” replacement for Bruce Brown. Today, Denver’s coach spoke highly of Braun too.
“He was the best player in our gym most days this summer,” Malone said.
Heading into this season, I’m thinking of Braun as the Nuggets’ sixth starter, just like I thought of Brown last season. It feels like there’s a clear drop-off after Braun in terms of who the Nuggets know they’ll be able to rely on off the bench next season.
Reggie Jackson’s bounce back
Jackson was not good for the Nuggets after Denver signed him late last season off the buyout market. But there’s hope that after a full offseason spent in Denver, and a training camp with the Nuggets’ coaching staff, Jackson can bounce back and play at a higher level.
“The Reggie Jackson I’ve seen all summer long I think is more than ready to come in here and help this team coming off of our bench,” said Malone.
There’s been a lot of chatter already this week about Jackon mentoring Denver’s rookies and taking on a veteran role in the Nuggets’ locker room. Denver likes how he’s carried himself in that regard.
Quote of the Day
Jokic said that the Nuggets might be playing a game of Spike Ball after practice on Tuesday but that he’s looking for a new partner. His regular Spike Ball partner, Vlatko Cancar, suffered a torn ACL while playing for Slovenia this summer.
A Nuggets assistant coach and fellow Serbian is Jokic’s top target.
“Ogi (Stojakovic),” Jokic said. “He’s competitive. He will go crazy.”
Two special guests that I saw at Nuggets practice on Tuesday were former NBA ref Joey Crawford and former Nuggets coach Melvin Hunt. After practice ended, Crawford and Jokic talked for around 10 minutes. It looked like a lively chat.
“I was just asking questions,” Jokic said. “I know Joey. A little bit of talking. A little bit having fun.”
Hunt, the former Nuggets assistant and head coach for 23 games during the 2014-15 season, worked with Malone in Cleveland for five years under Mike Brown. He has family in the area and asked if he could come by and watch practice.
An injury note to keep an eye on: Peyton Watson walked off the practice court with a limp and ice around his left ankle. It’s something to monitor after both Reggie Jackson and Justin Holliday said “being healthy” will be important to his success this season.