The offseason is officially over. The Denver Nuggets are back to work.

After landing in San Diego on Monday for the beginning of training camp, the Nuggets had a team dinner, getting to know the new faces and reconnect with each other. On Tuesday morning, the team reconvened for breakfast, and Michael Malone delivered his vision for the 2022-23 season.

“Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”

The Nuggets know that it’s going to take more than just pretty words and a bunch of talent to win a championship. As Michael Malone shared with media on Tuesday afternoon, there’s a lot that has to happen between now and playoff time during April, May, and June. Competing for a championship is a process.

“I think the word that comes to mind for me is discipline,” Malone shared of the team’s overarching desire for this season. “I said if I went around the room right now and I said to everybody, ‘what’s your goal this year?’ Every one of you are going to say a championship.

“I said ‘Bullshit’. We said the same thing last year.”

For this year’s training camp, the Nuggets have shown more intentionality and professionalism than ever before. The addition of veterans to the locker room and the maturation of Denver’s stars has eased the transition. There’s been plenty of talk from the Nuggets in seasons past about what Denver “needs to do” on the defensive end, or in transition, or in clutch situations.

Now, it seems like the Nuggets may actually being showing, rather than simply telling.

It may be the first day of training camp, but the spirits were high once again. The Nuggets will hope to hold on to that momentum through the rest of the week.

The Main Story: Jamal Murray is back

Today was the first full practice that Jamal Murray went through since tearing his ACL in April of 2021.

The Nuggets star point guard, though he’s entering his seventh season in the NBA, showed some legitimate excitement today. Often, talking to the media can be seen as a drag for NBA players. Instead of being defensive, Murray held court, answering questions openly and thoughtfully about various aspects of his return to the court.

“I feel good. I feel rejuvenated,” Murray declared. “Just playing hard. Playing aggressive. Trying to pace myself.”

Murray’s return was always going to be a cautious one. Having not played in live game action in over a year, the speed of the game and Murray being able to sustain that speed for long stretches will be the biggest hurdle. That, and the knee soreness, though Murray said he was able to practice for far longer today before feeling any.

So, how many physical hurdles does Murray have left before he feels 100%?

“Maybe a few,” Murray answered without going into specific detail.

Murray has leaned on the advice of others around him that have sustained major knee injuries, including Nuggets staffer and former Murray teammate Darrell Arthur.

“Even when I look good in practice, he just tells me to keep sticking with it,” Murray shared. “When I’m frustrated, and I’m sore and I’m still trying to get through it, ‘stick with it.’ He always tells me to look at how far I’ve come. If I can keep on that same path, keep looking back to two months ago, three months ago, you see the improvement that you keep striving for.”

As the Nuggets get closer and closer, Murray will be closer and closer to making his return. There are still steps he needs to take to feel prepared for that moment, but he’s well on his way. Training camp is a big step in the right direction.

“I just want to take care of my body and be ready to go.”

Rotation Watch

Much of training camp and preseason will be spent identifying the best rotation the Nuggets can produce heading into the regular season.

Michael Malone shared notes on both the starting and bench units. Usually, he doesn’t like to give players a starting spot before earning it, but this season is different. The Nuggets have a clear starting five:

  • Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić

Malone had some interesting things to say about Porter today, notably the need for his defense to improve this season. There will be some decisions to make with regard to Porter and the closing rotation. The starting rotation, though, is about as set in stone as it can be at this stage of training camp.

The interesting note was who ran with the top bench group today:

  • Bones Hyland, Bruce Brown, Davon Reed, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan

The first four names are of little surprise. Bones is a major breakout candidate in his second season as he continues to develop more trust in a Nuggets uniform. Brown didn’t come to Denver to sit. he’s going to play. Davon Reed is the veteran pick over rookie Christian Braun at small forward. Jeff Green is the veteran pick at power forward, having started many games last season already.

But DeAndre Jordan in place of Zeke Nnaji is notable. Nnaji shared on media day that he added ten pounds of muscle, but he also shared that he saw himself as more of a power forward. Perhaps Malone agrees, and that might lead to consistent minutes for Jordan as the bench center. Whether the Nuggets go with the shooting/mobility of Nnaji or the rim running/protecting of Jordan is an interesting debate, one that will likely persist throughout training camp.

Overall though, this was a good first day. The Nuggets know, they have to be better with the details, and they know that that process begins now. If they truly are about it, they will take every step of this process seriously.

That’s an exciting prospect.