DENVER – Christian Braun is no longer in college but still finds himself cramming for the next day’s assignment, just in a different way.
After the longest road trip of his young pro career, the rookie reflected on the differences between life as a Kansas Jayhawk and life as a Denver Nugget.
“The focus level is different, because in college, you take four days to prepare for one team, and you’re really focused on that team. You know all their plays,” Braun explained after Tuesday’s practice.
“In the NBA, you get a day, maybe. You’ve got back-to-backs, so it’s kind of just looking at different tendencies, different players and trying to go off of that. It’s a focus thing, and it’s a preparation thing.”
Braun has handled the adjustment admirably, using his athleticism and toughness to make an impact defensively while letting the offense come to him. He played in three of the four games on the weeklong road trip. With Bones Hyland in the league’s "health and safety protocols" for the Nuggets’ last two games, the 6-foot-6 wing rejoined the second unit and played 13 minutes Friday in Boston and 26 minutes Sunday in Chicago. He finished the win against the Bulls with nine points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist. He made half his shots from the field, including a 3-pointer, and both of his free throws.
“I thought Christian played really well in Chicago,” coach Michael Malone said.
The postgame routine also looks different. With less time between games, there’s more of an emphasis on preparing for the quick turnaround.
“Getting back to your hotel and recovering how you’re supposed to is really important,” Braun said.
The game in Boston stirred up some college memories. Braun said the environments in road games against the Celtics and Warriors provided the kind of intensity he’s accustomed to after spending three seasons playing in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, one of college basketball’s great home-court advantages.
“In college, you don’t have to create your own energy, because of the fans. Everybody’s loud. Everybody’s cheering the whole game, and there’s two games a week. When there’s four games a week, sometimes the crowds aren’t as into it,” Braun said.
“I enjoy playing in those environments and those games. I think those have been the two most fun games for me so far,” Braun said.
The Nuggets are back at Ball Arena Wednesday against the Knicks before heading back out on the road for four of their next five. By the end of that stretch, the Nuggets will have played 13 of their first 19 games away from home. There’s only one longer road trip – a five-game trip to the East Coast in March – left in Braun’s rookie season, and he’s proving to be a quick study in the NBA.
“First long, successful road trip. We’re going to build from that,” Braun said.
“The travel and everything is obviously new to me, but everybody’s really professional around here. They handle things the way they’re supposed to.”