LA JOLLA, Calif. — If the Nuggets were driving a stick, the players are in fifth gear, pedal to the metal.
Michael Malone prefers a more deliberate pace.
Through two days of training camp, the Nuggets are operating too fast for the coach's liking, but that could be expected given the team’s makeup — a mix of new players and others returning from injury. Malone, speaking after Wednesday’s practice at University of California San Diego, says the start of training camp are traditionally sloppy affairs.
“I think it’s probably a combination of so many things,” Malone said. “Some of it is new guys creating that on-court chemistry. Some of it is just everybody is playing at the same speed right now. I always feel … that the game is played at two speeds. Defensively, be frenetic, get after it. Offensively, slow down. I think we’re just rushing into a lot of mistakes right now, forcing things that are not there.”
It seems most important that Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are in-step, especially when it comes to the two-man game. Malone said the duo’s comfortability playing together helped the team in the clutch before, something that was missed last season.
“It looks good, but I know it’s going to look better once Jamal gets back into game shape where he completely has no concerns about his knee,” Malone says. “I think it’ll get back to that in a hurry, but it still looks pretty good.”
“It was fun,” Jokic added. “It feels really natural. It feels easy. I think we’re going to be back really soon.”
Jokic said training camp so far has focused on drill work and 5-on-5 play as the team integrates newcomers like Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The reigning two-time MVP added this week is especially important in terms of getting familiar with each other, especially the new additions to the roster.
“Get used to playing with the guys,” Jokic answered when asked what he hoped to get out of this week. “Just because we don’t practice that much.”
The scrimmage to end practice served as a sign of what is hopefully to come for Malone. After allowing 17.3 points per game off turnovers last season, that’s been a focus. Only Houston, Sacramento, Portland and Cleveland — none of which were among the final 16 playoff teams — allowed more last season.
“Much better job of taking care of the ball in that,” Malone said of the scrimmage. “But I do appreciate the work and the effort that is going into the first two practices.”