From the 40th pick in the 2012 NBA draft to being labeled a weak shooter during his rookie season, Will Barton has reached knew heights and made the impossible possible. He became the Nuggets’ franchise leader in 3-pointers, scoring 769 of them in a Denver jersey.
“It meant a lot to me,” Barton said. “I won’t downplay it. It was big time… just who I am, where I come from, the knock that I had coming into the league was that I couldn’t shoot and it was true at that time. It was a weakness I identified after my rookie year and I put in a lot of hours just trying to get my trey ball as good as I could and it just shows once I got traded to Denver.”
Jamal Murray, a 3-point specialist, was joking with Barton after the game saying he would break that record in 20 games when he comes back and Barton, without a doubt, said that would definitely happen. But all jokes aside, Barton’s teammates wanted to see him win and did whatever they could to help him achieve that.
“Jeff was on the court. Shoutout to Jeff, he was telling me he’s running plays for me to get the last one,” Barton said. “I finally got it off JaMychal’s screen and I hit that.”
Barton had been in a shooting slump for the past three games and Michael Malone could tell that the stress of breaking the record had got to him. He pulled him aside and helped him calm down.
“I said just play your game,” Malone said. “If you play your game. It’s not a question of if you’re going to break it, it’s just when. Settle down and stop putting all the pressure on yourself.”
While Barton was breaking records, DeMarcus Cousins was starting in his first game as a Denver Nugget and did not disappoint. Whether it was dunking or hitting long range shots, Boogie was firing on all cylinders and finished the night with 31 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in 24 minutes of play. He also knocked down three triples.
“What I love about him is Cousins is so invested,” Malone said. “Like for a guy that is new to our team he is so invested and he understands that this is the last stop. Twenty-nine other teams and the phone wasn’t ringing. So he is making this work in a big way and he is working so hard. He is getting in shape. He’s losing weight and he’s trying to handle his emotions as best as he can.”
Before Friday night Cousins hadn’t had a 30-point game since 2018 but he always had the confidence in himself to play at a high level even now in his 12th season. All he needed was a team to believe in him, too.
“I always believed in myself it was more so everybody else,” Cousins said. “But my confidence and my beliefs in my abilities that has never wavered. Some people close a door on others and others will open one for you. Wait for your opportunity and if you get it just try to take advantage of it.”
The Nuggets are 11-1 when Cousins plays and he’s impacting the game in more ways than just on the court but also in the locker room. He has taken on a leadership role and isn’t afraid to coach some of the younger guys.
“When you don’t know Cuz I think some guys are intimidated,” Malone said. “What’s this guy all about? I heard he is crazy. The talent stands out and then you realize this guy is a good dude. This guy has been a great teammate. This guy has been a leader. He is brand new and he is getting on guys in the right way so I think he has the entire locker room respects him not only for his talent and ability but also for the way he has carried himself, how hard he is working, his role acceptance of playing behind Nikola.”
Cousins’ teammates have fully bought into the big man assuming a leadership role. His 12 years in the league has given him the veteran experience needed to guide a team. In past situations, the 4x NBA All-Star’s personality was difficult for teammates to deal with but he continues to be himself and provide the necessary tools needed to assist in the success of the team.
“I’m going to always be who I am but I’ve learned through experience you have to cater to certain people,” Cousins said. “You can’t deliver the message the same way to every person. Just KYP. Know your personnel. So not even just my teammates, the organization or whatever the case may be. But I’ve learned that and I try to apply that to every aspect of life but with that being said I’m going to always be myself but I’m definitely feel out a situation and some people can’t handle my personality which is fine. There’s some personalities I don’t like but I’ll always remain myself.”
Denver has won nine of its last 11 games and has been playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Nuggets sit in sixth in the Wester Conference standings with a 37-26 record. They face the New Orleans Pelicans next on Sunday at home.