Last summer, in the quiet corridors of an almost empty Pepsi center, one could find Denver Nuggets' president, Tim Connelly, indifferent and nagging, who stumbled in the corridors clad in a t-shirt. shirt and sweats: the uniform of a month business man business.
One day, Nikola Jokic, the big sociable giant, the future of Nuggets basketball, stammered and joked, "What does a president look like?"
Connelly turned around and glanced at her $ 147 million investment over five years, a 250-pound wind-blown center with the athletic profile of a 7-foot professional baseball pitcher: chubby, slow-footed but with the sight of an eagle and an arm that can whip a ball anywhere on the ground at a speed as fast as lightning.
He is lucky. Concerned about how Jokic's body would translate into the NBA, 40 teams handed it to the NBA draft in 2014, before Connelly and the Nuggets took him abroad for a year. "Its aesthetics will not attract a lot of attention," Connelly told Yahoo Sports. "His body type, his athleticism. It's not unique to Nikola. Many of our team members may not match their productivity. "
Thanks to Jokic's generational vision, the Nuggets have discovered one of their own: a casual, laid-back star, ready to lead a team of basketball junkies. What better strength to soothe the tension between collective success and individual celebrity than a star who does not care about any of the characteristics of celebrity?
"I hate m …" Jokic starts telling Yahoo Sports before pausing and remembering who is in front of him. "Media," he finishes, sheepish and confused, waving his hands as he searches for the right word.
"Yeah," says the best man in the NBA.
Pressing Jokic's ability to place the ball several times between the hammer and the anvil, the Nuggets have created a scorching offense around the backs, Hail Mary's back and back transfers in transition.
But slowed by Jokic's move in the middle, they were puzzling on the defensive side and missed the playoff playoffs last year. The narrow defeat has inspired collective outrage throughout the locker room. The coaching staff, the feeling, empowered them and gave birth to this concentrated and defensive team. They are now the No. 1 seed in the West and the only team in the conference to rank among the top 10 in attack and defense, showing the power to reduce small mistakes.
<p type = "text" content = ""[We’re] by taking each game more seriously. Last year, we got into the games a little bit knowing that we were better than the teams, giving the teams a late lead and not keeping them, "he said. Jamal Murray, an electrical marker whose increased consistency propels it into Denver's second star. "Being more disciplined is very important to us. Just to have a better state of mind. "" Data-reactid = "42"> "[We’re] by taking each game more seriously. Last year, we got into the games knowing that we were better than the teams. We gave the teams a late lead and did not keep it, "said Jamal Murray, an electric scorer whose increased consistency propels him into the second star of Denver. "Being more disciplined is very important to us. Just have a better state of mind. "
By humming freely around Jokic, the Nuggets give ugliness a magnificent appearance.
<p type = "text" content = "It's December 18th, and the Nuggets just handed out the Dallas Mavericks. Despite the fact that 60% of the original composition – Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton – missed a lot of time with injuries, the Nuggets retain the # 1 seed, winning an unlikely win after improbable win as young players like Torrey Craig and data-reactid = "45"> It's December 18th, and the Nuggets have just sent the Dallas Mavericks. Despite the fact that 60% of the starting lineup – Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton – missed much of his time with injuries, the Nuggets retain the # 1 seed, winning an unlikely win after a win unlikely as young actors such as Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley win and punish their unknown opponents.
Jokic steps out of the shower, turns his back on the crowd of reporters waiting next to his locker and drops his briefcase, thus revealing a gut flowing from a pair of narrow, yellow Spongebob boxers boxers, as well as # A disconcerting absurdity that wrinkles and freezes his business. It's not often that a player's essence can be summed up in a post-match press conference, but here Jokic is approaching.
He reads his stats line – 32 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, three interceptions, one block and four free throws – and says, "I think I need to go a little further. I need to be a little more aggressive. I do not know how, he cracks, but I'm going to talk about the need for me to be more aggressive to get to the line, making it easier to laugh as he makes the balloon easier: a natural, lively impulse and Uncontrollable to spread joy, be helpful and affable.
Referring to the statistics sheet after dropping it to the ground, it shows the vision that has changed the trajectory of Nuggets. His deep blue eyes scan the tiny police 7 feet lower and look for figures that illustrate the defensive contributions of his teammates. "Minus 16, minus 12, minus 16, minus 27," he says, comparing the plus-minus negative numbers of the much-vaunted Mavericks bench.
Asked about Coach Mike Malone's suggestion that he should be firmly in the running for the Most Valuable Player, Jokic expresses a total disinterest and eliminates the issue. "No. It's just an individual thing, if it happens, it happens, but I can not affect it." He can do it, but he does not see basketball as something that can be taken care of. Jokic, every game has its own pace that dictates the defenses of the defense.It can exploit the mistakes, but it can not bend them to its will.
Only when asked if the team goes to a local hospital is it marveling at its impact on others. "One of the nurses told us that one of the children had been depressed for two months. He did not want to be with people and he saw us, he smiled, "he says. The nurse started crying. It's just to show how we can influence the lives of others. It's not just basketball. "
In his spare time, Jokic enjoys traveling the five kilometers between downtown Denver and Washington Park and playing Spikeball, which is, in my opinion, an infusion of doubles volleyball and sumo around. a net resembling a mini-trampoline.
"[People] In fact, they do not recognize me because I do not think they expect me to drive to Washington Park or do anything like this. I like that, to be honest. It's cool. "In addition, packaged in a sports outfit with a pink nose that looks to fight against a sinus infection, Jokic fits perfectly.
Sometimes it's more like a rest stop for ducks than a park for the human, their only tweet breaking the familiar noises of nature. It's quiet, even idyllic, the kind of place where a big man decides not to do things the way they did before they could feel relieved from the pressure to comply.
With an indomitable reach, a ballet player's footwork and a feather touch, Jokic could aspire to have James Harden's garish statistics lines. Instead, he misses sharp shots, ranging from entire possessions without touching the ball, like a 7-foot Steve Nash.
At a time when success is about easing the tension between individual stars working together in a collective system, building a team by developing youth can be complicated. Who to present? Who to rank? And who is on whose path? But Jokic's rate of use is one of the lowest in the league for men's leading, preventing the development of young talent from the Nuggets – with an average NBA's lowest age of 24.7 years – without risk of being engulfed by Jokic's exploits.
Time will tell if Murray or one of Jokic's budding talents can turn into a champion-level sidekick, but otherwise it will not be because of Jokic. In fact, it is Murray who directs assistance assistance, with enough representatives to fine tune his decision-making despite playing alongside a smuggler of generations.
"If my teammate is open, I'll go to 100%, maybe even if I'm in a better position," Jokic told SB Nation. "I think it's essential."
With this promise, Jokic confirms his attachment to an absolute desire to be useful and defines the ethics of Nuggets. This confirms what hundreds of coaches have tried to communicate to players: cut and the ball will find you. Install hard screens and you will be rewarded. Run in a dead space and the three open is yours. Jokic leaves money on the table passing every time, but the psychological impact is more important, more important, than his points per possession, rising from 1.07 to 1.09. He gives up an advantage and feeds the soul of the team.
Simplicity has eliminated the complications of roles and rotations that, apparently through injury, change every day. Craig, a sophomore, has shot 36 percent of all three goals since December. "I did not change anything," he says. "It's mostly confidence and pace.
"We simply play for free. At this level, you must know how to play basketball. We have guys with high IQs, top scorers and passers-by, so we make the game easy for each other. I know that when I cut, Joker will pick me up. "
They all know that: simple games work, if you run them the way you want them. And those who did not know were quickly initiated.
__________ <p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "On October 20th, second year reader Monte Morris He scored his 41st minute NBA total when he participated in the second quarter of a match against Phoenix. "data-reactid =" 107 "> On October 20, second-year player Monte Morris scored his 41st NBA total when he registered in the second quarter against Phoenix.
The leader who worked in the G League last year seemed to feel the weight of the gift. After Euro missed his first pitching attempt and took a charge in transition, Morris withdrew. "I have not been effective. I was just shy, "he says, wagging his shoulders like an oncoming pedestrian who can not decide which way to go. "I did not play to make mistakes." He scored no points, offered no help and recorded a turnover.
After the match, Malone told Morris to lose apprehension and channel the aggression that had landed him in the Nuggets' rotation. The Nuggets faced off against the Warriors the next night and, after failing on the first courses, he began driving fiercely, separating screens and turning broken screens into unplanned cuts. "I was a totally different player. I was in attack mode and since then, it's like that, "says Morris.
Morris replaced Isaiah Thomas, Beasley replaced Harris, Juancho Hernangomez for Millsap, and Craig for Barton. And everyone has responded by defining and honing niche rotation skills.
Ask Connelly what his favorite games of the season are, and he'll make a long list of players ranging from the Morris escape to Mason Plumlee to Thomas Welsh. And of course, the moment that hinted at the upcoming defensive revolution.
While it was eight seconds and the Nuggets were in the lead by two on Oct. 21, Stephen Curry caught the pass in the rink and sprinted to the ground. Murray gave up the first step, finding himself on the back of Curry and forcing Millsap to leave Damian Jones wide open under the edge. It was at this point that Hernangomez rushed to Jones before the ball fell into Jones' palm and did not score his goal.
It was the kind of assistant coach and defensive architect who saved the game, as Wes Unseld Jr. had imagined when the coaching staff had met before the start of the training camp. The ball had no trouble finding the Denver basket, but a heavy foul was not enough to propel them into the playoffs. They understood that they could not strengthen their forces without accepting and attacking their weaknesses.
First, they gave Jokic the power to defend himself by asking him how he preferred to cover the pick-and-roll. He wanted to put pressure on the ball manipulators instead of lowering his guard and keeping the pick-and-roll in pairs. In a vain attempt to engage him, the Nuggets tried the same approach last season. The lack of speed on Jokic's feet routinely gave the guards a runway to the edge, forcing Murray and Harris to help the 3-point shooters.
Jokic ended up losing ground, with equally commendable results. "We discovered early on that it was not the best," says Unseld Jr. "What's good about conversations with people is that doing what's right may not be right for you. Conventional systems generally require conventional defense personnel. To succeed, the Nuggets should do things their way.
The jamming would be inevitable. It would be the same by giving up many 3-point attempts, usually a more accurate predictor of poor defense than the 3-point percentage, which is generally considered too random to be able to effectively measure the impact. Denver ignored the adage and decided to live with contested trios. In the middle of the season, the Nuggets have a top-10 defense, with their opponents shooting only 32.7% of Deep's goals, the second-lowest mark in the NBA.
Bypassing the wisdom of modern basketball, the Nuggets trusted Jokic's judgment and the locker rooms admitted they should minimize his weaknesses. "He's a good teammate," says Connelly. "And when you have a good teammate, you are more fit and more willing to sell, buy and make extra efforts."
In the redesigned Nuggets system, Jokic plays, but he does not catch the guards aggressively about thirty yards from the edge. He just takes the lead to avoid the immediate jumpers and save time. As a result, the perimeter player who keeps the lowest spacer on the ground turns to mark the tall man who rolls, leaving a defender responsible for two shooters. And that's where the Nuggets had to learn to make better decisions than their opponents.
Knowing that they had to defend themselves four-to-three beyond Jokic, the coaching staff set up a training routine to master the many tricky situations that occur in the throes of a basketball game.
In a particular transitional exercise, the defense plays four-on-five while waiting for the fifth defender to sprint from the opposite side to the other, telling him where he should be when he is back in the game and defending himself disadvantage. "It's very useful," says Craig. "In the game, you see a lot of these situations, such as when a guy falls or someone hurts himself. We never know."
Unseld Jr. emphasized repetition, muscle memory and a meticulous understanding of the screening report, turning the complex percentage into a complex game in a fraction of a second.
And then, to match the momentum of the modern NBA offensive, they left the reins: communicate. Do some natural reading. "We left a lot of freedom to our offensive guys," said Unseld Jr. "So we think, why can not you do that on the defensive side?" The defensive rotations of the Nuggets are disciplined and deliberate, even though they often look like chaotic dams in the dark.
"[Jokic’s] The efforts have been great this year, "said Unseld Jr." We have seen a lot in the first year and I think it took a step back in the second and third years. "The difference? The same collective anger that unified the goal of the team. "He's like us: tired of hearing it."
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