Newsflash: The defending champion Nuggets are still very good, and John Hollinger of The Athletic took a deep dive into what’s been working.
Of course, it helps to have center Nikola Jokic.
“Thus far, the Nuggets are winning the Jokić minutes by 16.2 points per 100 possessions and ‘only’ losing the non-Jokić minutes by 5.2,” Hollinger wrote. “Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s strategy has been to stagger Jamal Murray’s minutes to play with four subs while Jokić is out, subtracting court time from the lethal Murray-Jokić pick-and-roll to avoid some of the disastrous all-bench units of recent yore that have basically been an instant 10-0 run for the opposition.”
- Hollinger added: “It helps that the Nuggets return their magnificent starting five, a quintet of nearly perfectly melded interlocking pieces that posted a plus-13.1 net rating in the 2022-23 regular season and nearly matched it (plus-9.4) in the playoffs.”
- Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suggested he’s going after a bid for the NBA’s All-Defensive team. “I feel like I’ve been snubbed a couple years from that. Or even just being mentioned,” he said, via Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. “I don’t think I’ve even been mentioned in that category, and now it’s a goal this year. I’ll make some noise, so they can’t ignore me.”
- Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook all wanted James Harden on the Clippers, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
- Charania was speaking on FanDuel TV. “Does it last and how fluid it’s going to be, that remains to be seen,” he said of the Clippers’ new Big Four.
- We have more on the Clippers and what the Knicks think of hosting them for Harden’s LA debut right here.
- In case you missed it, the Clippers are converting the contract of guard/forward Joshua Primo to a standard deal. (Full post)
- George said Harden will benefit the Clippers in many ways. “James is a superstar,” George said, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Another play-maker. Another scorer, leader. Really happy to have him here. … It’s not every day you get a chance to get a guy of his ability that wants to come and play on this team. It was worth taking a swing on, and so we felt that he could help us.”
Coach Darvin Ham said the Lakers have to do a better job on the boards, given how they’ve been outscored 117-54 in second-chance points through their first six games.
“You can’t scheme rebounding,” Ham said, via Khobi Price of the Orange County Register. “You’ve got to want to get the ball. Plain and simple. The shot goes up, if your opponent is in your area, you’ve got to get hits, put bodies on bodies and be the most aggressive one to the ball. That’s it. There’s no play I can draw up to get more rebounds.”
- LeBron James spoke about his time with the Heat and the idea of strong culture before the Lakers’ game in Miami on Monday. “Obviously, it starts from the top, but at the end of the day it’s the guys that are in the locker room holding guys accountable,” James said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “You can have the messaging come from the top, but if guys are not abiding by it or doubling down on it in the locker room and then applying it on the floor and applying it off the court and being model citizens, or whatever the case may be, then it still doesn’t matter.”