Nuggets tip off sum­mer league club’s mini­camp

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Ben­jamin Arthur

The tran­si­tion from rookie to vet­eran hap­pens fast in the NBA.

Juan­cho Her­nan­gomez was just try­ing to un­der­stand the Amer­i­can style of bas­ket­ball a year ago, how the NBA worked and what the rules were. But now, com­ing into his sec­ond sea­son with the Nuggets, the Spa­niard feels right at home.

“It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing was a new thing (last year). Right now, I’ve got one year’s ex­pe­ri­ence. I feel like I’m a bet­ter player, I feel like my groove is go­ing on.”

Her­nan­gomez, a 6-foot-9 for­ward, and other young Nuggets started a four-day mini­camp Mon­day in prepa­ra­tion for the Las Ve­gas sum­mer league. Her­nan­gomez and sec­ond-year guard Malik Beasley head­line the 14-man ros­ter for Den­ver. The team’s re­cent draft picks, for­ward Tyler Ly­don and guard Monte Mor­ris, also will play in Las Ve­gas.

Her­nan­gomez is ex­pected to see lim­ited ac­tion be­fore he leaves to join Spain’s na­tional team for EuroBas­ket 2017.

That means a spot­light will be on Beasley, who didn’t play much as a rookie. The Florida State prod­uct av­er­aged 3.8 points in the 22 games he played last sea­son. He spent the ma­jor­ity of his rookie sea­son in the G-League, but he scored 16 and 17 points in wins to end the Nuggets’ sea­son. He missed the sum­mer league last year be­cause of a stress frac­ture in his right leg.

Den­ver’s sum­mer league coach, Micah Nori, said he wants Beasley to show im­prove­ment mak­ing plays off the drib­ble and show a will­ing­ness to guard mul­ti­ple po­si­tions.

“Malik is prob­a­bly right at the top of the pri­or­ity list,” Nori said. “This is a chance for him to go out and play 35 to 40 min­utes ... and just take things over.”

Nori added that he doesn’t want the team to run a lot of sets on of­fense in Las Ve­gas. He wants the play­ers to get out and run. But a huge em­pha­sis is be­ing placed on im­prov­ing on de­fense. The Nuggets ranked 29th among the NBA’s 30 teams in de­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency last sea­son.

“The big­gest thing that we were talk­ing about to­day was at the de­fen­sive end,” Ly­don said. “Get­ting stops and get­ting out in tran­si­tion and scor­ing that way.”

The Nuggets wrap up their mini­camp Thurs­day and play their Las Ve­gas opener Fri­day against the Hous­ton Rock­ets.

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