The offseason might have been short for some Denver Nuggets but not for PJ Dozier.
After missing the team’s playoff run, which ran into mid-June, due to an injury suffered late in the regular season, Dozier’s rehab from an adductor strain carried over into the offseason. He said he only started playing five-on-five and taking contact when he returned to Denver in recent weeks. That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy some family time and comfort food in South Carolina.
“My favorite thing, of course, is the home cooking,” Dozier said. “At home, we ate a lot and had some relaxation time with the family. That’s all I could ask for, definitely blessed.”
Back in Denver the focus is back on basketball. For Dozier that prepares for myriad roles ranging from defensive stopper, to floor spacer and pick-and-roller.
“I’m going to be ready to go out there and play whatever position my team needs me to play,” Dozier said.
Dozier said he considers defending other teams’ best perimeter player part of his role, something that in his eyes didn’t change given Denver’s few roster changes. It’s a role he said he takes pride in heading into his third season with the Nuggets after a short offseason for some.
“I think everybody tried to take advantage of the time that we had,” Dozier said. “For me, like I said, the last time I played five-on-five was that Laker game when I went down. So I’ve been ready.”
Howard looking to help here in Denver or in G League
The G League would be a significant step down for Markus Howard after he was called on to help a banged-up Denver Nuggets backcourt through a couple of brutally tough postseason matchups, but it’s an option the second-year guard welcomed.
Howard, after four standout seasons at Marquette, played most of his meaningful minutes as a rookie at the end of the regular season before playoff matchups against Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and Phoenix’s Chris Paul and Devin Booker. He scored nine points in back-to-back games against Portland.
“My opportunity came in the most important time of the season — the playoffs,” Howard said. “No matter what the expectation is, you always have to be ready. So for myself, I think there was no better test for me than to kind of just be thrown in there. The entire year, mentally, I tried my best to stay prepared and stay ready mentally and physically.”
This year that might include flights between Denver and Grand Rapids, Mich., home of Denver’s new G League affiliate. Howard’s two-way contract limits how many games he can spend on the Nuggets’ active roster.
“I know what type of player that I am. I know what I’m capable of, and I know what I can bring to an organization,” Howard said.
“Whatever opportunity presents itself, whether it’s in the NBA or in the G League, I’m going to put my best foot forward. I’m going to compete. I’m not going to change who I am as a player or as a person. Whatever vision the team has for me, you know, I’m going to work my butt off. ”
Cornelie comes to Denver a changed man
Petr Cornelie, the newest member of the Nuggets, credits something of a basketball awakening for allowing him to finally come to the NBA after Denver drafted him in the second round in 2016.
After a couple of tough years in his home country, France, the 6-foot-11 stretch forward/center made it sound like a changed mindset shifted his career’s outlook. After averaging 7.1 points and five rebounds for Elan Bearnais in the 2019-20 season, he put up 14.4 points and 7.9 rebounds with the same team last season and shot better from the field, 3-point range and free-throw line than the previous season. He was also a late addition to France’s Olympic team this summer, though he didn’t play against the U.S. in the gold-medal game.
“I just want to work as hard as I can to be a better basketball player,” Cornelie said. “Just work on my game, work on my physical (abilities), work on my knowledge of the game, like everything so I can be the best player I can be. I had some really bad experiences that made me think like that. So, yeah, I’m proud to think like that now.”
He’s not sure what that means for his role on the Nuggets. He, like Markus Howard, fills the team’s two-way roster spots and wants to make the most of his opportunity.
“It’s been a long journey,” Cornelie said. “I’m finally there, and I just want to work hard to make the team.”