NUGGETS

Nuggets have unlikely leader who constantly reminds them they’re champs

Feb 9, 2024, 6:24 PM | Updated: 6:31 pm

LAS VEGAS — It takes more than just the coach to keep the Denver Nuggets motivated — and to remind them of what they are.

Sometimes, it has to come from the players, within themselves. And a day after the Nuggets stormed into downtown Los Angeles and strode out with a 114-106 win on a night when the Lakers honored Kobe Bryant with the unveiling of a stature commemorating the two-time scoring champion, TNT’s Kevin Harlan — who called the game to a national-television audience — offered a story that summed up how leadership comes from all corners of the locker room.

Even from a player not even averaging a dozen minutes a game in just 27 games played this year.

Center DeAndre Jordan ranks 11th on the Nuggets in minutes per game. But the 35-year-old is also a centering presence in the locker room. And as Nuggets coach Michael Malone shared, that manifests itself in a simple — but effective — manner.

“Michael Malone told us a great story (Thursday) night,” Harlan recalled. “He said, ‘You know, sometimes we can forget that we’re the defending champions.'”

It might seem absurd, but as the season goes on, sometimes that gets lost.

As Malone said, that’s where Jordan comes in.

“And DeAndre Jordan, before we go out, he’ll look at everybody and he’ll say, ‘Remember, we are the champions. We’re the defending champions of the NBA. They’re chasing us. We’re not chasing them,” as Harlan related, sharing Malone’s vignette.

“Sometimes, you’ve gotta tell yourself that, because it’s a long season. There are a lot of games. There’s a lot of traveling. The message can get lost.”

That sort of mindset has helped the Nuggets stay on course for a repeat, as Harlan sees it.

“It’s hard to play great all the time. But since December [11], they’re 22-7. They’re meeting the challenge,” Harlan said.

They wanted Boston — and that was a shot across the bow, saying, ‘Hey, here is what we are, not only just the defending champions, but as relevant this year as we were last on our championship march, and we may see each other again in June. Just beware.'”

Nuggets

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #5 of the Denver Nuggets shoots over Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 7...

Jake Shapiro

Rumor: Jokic’s rival’s team could sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

The Denver Nuggets are at risk of losing one of their starters to free agency in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—and the 76ers could sign him

17 minutes ago

Michael Malone, head coach of the Denver Nuggets...

Jake Shapiro

Michael Malone acknowledges he ‘ran players into the ground’

Michael Malone made a big deal of prioritizing health in front of the top seed, what the Denver Nuggets failed to figure for was fatigue

4 days ago

Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets high fives head coach Michael Malone...

Jake Shapiro

Michael Malone gives staunchest defense yet of Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Malone and Michael Porter Jr. have not always seen eye to eye but the coach backed the forward stronger than he ever had

5 days ago

Josh Kroenke...

Jake Shapiro

Kroenke says Nuggets have responsibility to Jokic to chase titles

The Nuggets face some penalties for their roster's cost but Josh Kroenke says he'll open up the wallet for Nikola Jokic and titles

5 days ago

Nikola Jokic of the NBA's Denver Nuggets...

Jake Shapiro

NBA MVP Nikola Jokic named All-NBA First Team for fourth time

Nikola Jokic is again on the All-NBA First Team, unsurprisingly getting the honor for a fourth time on Wednesday

6 days ago

Draymond Green Jamal Murray...

Will Petersen

Draymond Green rants about Jamal Murray deserving suspension

Draymond Green compared himself to Jamal Murray, which is rich, considering Green's been suspended six times and for 12 games this year

6 days ago

Nuggets have unlikely leader who constantly reminds them they’re champs