NBA AM: Can Nuggets Sustain Recent Success?
VIDEO OF THE DAY – Evan Fournier
HOOPSWORLD catches up with Denver Nuggets guard Evan Fournier at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.Watch More Video Here
The Denver Nuggets have been one of the most consistent teams in the league over the past decade, currently boasting a streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances. However, expectations for the franchise heading into training camp will be different as the club has experienced numerous changes in its front office, coaching staff and player personnel.
For starters, Masai Ujiri, the team’s general manager, left the organization after signing a lucrative deal to join the Toronto Raptors’ front office. Next, longtime head coach George Karl was fired with one year still remaining on his contract. The final domino to drop was former All-Star forward Andre Iguodala’s decision to opt out of the last year of his contract in order to test free agency. Iguodala would ultimately sign a four-year deal to join the emerging Golden State Warriors and would later cite the departures of Ujiri and Karl as heavily factoring into his own defection from Denver.
The Nuggets won 57 games last season and finished with the third-best record in the Western Conference. However, most expect a steep decline due to offseason defections.
“We still have some players,” Nuggets forward Evan Fournier told HOOPSWORLD. “Like Ty [Lawson], Gallo (Danilo Gallanari), JaVale [McGee] and Kenneth [Faried]. I think we still have a pretty damn good team but we just have to play together.”
While the beginning of the offseason was rough for Denver, the team has managed to salvage. The Nuggets signed Randy Foye and J.J. Hickson to multi-year deals in free agency and also acquired reserve forward Darrell Arthur from Memphis via trade. The club then landed one of the hottest coaching candidates on the market in former NBA player Brian Shaw.
While Shaw has served as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers since his playing days ended, skeptics will point to the fact he doesn’t possess head coaching experience.
“I think it is going to be a good situation for us,” Nuggets forward Jordan Hamilton said on the addition of Shaw. “He is a former player who just got done playing in the league not too long ago. I think he is going to come in and really do a great job. It’s his first coaching job, but I think he’s going to come in and do a great job coaching the younger guys.”
On paper, there is still plenty of talent remaining in Denver, but the defections could have a significant impact on team chemistry moving forward. The club will need bigger contributions from Fournier and Hamilton this season along with continued growth from Faried and McGee.
Another playoff berth isn’t out of the questions, but it appears the them has taken a step back from being one of the Western Conference’s elite teams.
Blazers’ Thomas Robinson Trying To Regain Confidence
Thomas Robinson was selected with the fifth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. However, he was traded by the Kings to the Houston Rockets in February after appearing in just 51 games for the franchise.
Robinson would log just 19 games with the Rockets before the trade winds came calling again.
Houston traded the forward to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this month as part of a finance driven move to clear up the necessary cap space to sign All-Star center Dwight Howard in free agency.
It is not common to see a top-five pick traded twice in his first season in the league and, as expected, all of the movement started to impact Robinson’s confidence levels.
“I’ve been tossed around a couple of times,” Robinson told HOOPSWORLD. “So [my confidence] is up in the air right now. But I’m working my way back into getting a rhythm, so [eventually] it will be there.”
Robinson has spent a portion of the offseason playing with his new team in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas where he averaged 10.4 points and 12.8 rebounds in five contests. Robinson shot just 38 percent from the field and says he’s just trying regain his rhythm offensively.
“Right now I’m just trying to get adjusted to the offense with a new team,” Robinson said. “So unlike anybody else coming into their second year my whole focus is kind of different. I’m trying to get used to the offense.”
Robinson is expected to provide the Blazers with backup minutes this season behind All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt.
HOOPSWORLD’s 2013 NBA Summer League Coverage
Looking for in-depth 2013 NBA Summer League coverage? The HOOPSWORLD team was on the ground for both Orlando and Las Vegas sessions.
You can find interviews with up and coming prospects, current players, coaches and league executives here.