Michael Malone was brought in by the Denver Nuggets last summer, and was presented with a substantial challenge.
Rebuild and reshape an organization that went from the cream of the crop to the gutters, in two years time.
The Brian Shaw era of Denver Nuggets basketball was arguably the worst in the organization’s history.
The aftershock of the Shaw era left many questions in the heads of Nuggets fans.
Prior to Shaw era the Nuggets were a team with sustained greatness. The George Karl era was a great one for the Nuggets; however, lack of postseason success led to the change.
Shaw single handily tore down the golden era of Denver Nuggets basketball, and left a massive hole for Michael Malone to fix.
Thus far, Malone has done a great job changing the culture in Denver. Malone is a hard worker and takes pride in the way he coaches. He has built a trust between his players, and this leads to player-coach chemistry, which transitions to solid play and patience on the basketball court.
“Kids are so different today. You have to build them up,” Malone told Michael Lee of Yahoo sports. “Make sure they know that you love them, because if they don’t think you love them and you do that [get overly critical and negative], you lose them like that. I think that goes a long way. Some players may think, I am just an asset. I am just a position. I am just a stat. Whereas if you want to get the most out of them, you have to get to know them.”
One substantial area of improvement the Nuggets have made this season is their team chemistry. The guys play hard as a unit, not as individuals.
This year the Nuggets have been better at working the shot clock, taking good shots and making passes to create open looks. Teamwork has been a highlight of the 2016 Nuggets.
The players are like family to one another. They care about each others success and are there for each other. Malone has turned the Nuggets from a basketball team to a brotherhood of guys that thrive off each others success and failures. Even new comer Sean Kilpatrick was brought into the family despite only signing a 10-day contract.
“Look at our bench,” Malone says . “Even before we know it’s in or out, everybody on the bench is up. They don’t know this [expletive] kid. He’s on a 10-day contract. But everybody is hoping that shot goes in.”
Coach Malone stresses the importance of playing as a unit, and the players have taken that to heart. While the Nuggets do not have a superstar-caliber player, they do have a number of serviceable NBA players that get the job done.
Malone has changed the culture of this Denver Nuggets team, and while their record may not prove it, the Nuggets are a team that come out and play competitive basketball on a nightly basis.
Denver is a young team that will only get better with time, and they have a nucleus of young, raw and skilled youngsters.
Malone’s first year is a success despite the teams record. While the odds that the team ends up with a losing record are good, Malone has taken the first steps in rebuilding and fixing the wounds left by the previous regime.
That’s evidenced by the simple fact that the players want to play for him.
Towards the tail end of the Shaw era, the players gave up. They showed no effort and even began to count down the number of days left in the season. Malone quickly turned that around by getting to know his players on an individual basis.
Malone cares about his players both on and off the court, and that has transitioned into a bond between player and coach.
Malone can be harsh on his players at times, but it’s all in an effort to make them better.
This was shown in practice two weeks ago, as reported by Lee.
“We don’t value the ball. We don’t value possessions. We don’t do the little things. We have to get a lot better if we’re going to win these close games,” Malone yells at his players. “It’s not a [expletive] romper room.”
Then, Malone says: “OK, bring it in. ‘Together’ on three. One, two, three …
Although the Nuggets are not atop the standings this year in the Western Conference, they are taking a step in the right direction. The young talent, mixed with veteran presence, and a dedicated coach will set up the Nuggets for sustained success for years to come.
Michael Malone is the future of coaching for the Denver Nuggets, and his first year at the helm will mold the Nuggets for the future.