Jamal Murray feels “rejuvenated” at first day of training camp

SAN DIEGO – Nuggets coach Michael Malone spent the first day of training camp exhorting a vital lesson to his team: talk is cheap.

Last September, he deemed his team’s effort and buy-in inadequate. Malone nipped it in the bud less than a day after his team, finally healthy, arrived in San Diego for training camp.

“I said if I went around the room right now and said to everybody, ‘What’s your goal for this year? Every one of you is gonna say, ‘Win a championship,’” Malone said. “BS. We said the same thing last year. Guys were late. Guys weren’t focusing all the time. I said, ‘Don’t talk about it, be about it.’”

That was the tone and tenor of Malone’s message as his team broke camp. Monday night, they held a team dinner, including a highlight package of the Nuggets’ recent play. Tuesday morning, at another team meal, Malone got his points of emphasis across. Last season’s Nuggets won more games on the road (25) than at home (23).

“As great as we were on the road last year, we only had 23 home wins,” Malone said. “That’s ridiculous. If you want to be a team that truly has a chance to win a championship, you gotta protect your home court.”

Next he quizzed his guys on what division they were in (Northwest). No one knew, according to Malone. After an abysmal 6-10 record last season against Utah, Minnesota, OKC and Portland, there’s an added emphasis on beating the teams in their geographic proximity. Not because a division banner is something to celebrate, but because it’s a benchmark for loftier goals.

Beyond that, Malone wanted his team to focus on a better record against playoff teams, in addition to seizing close games.

“I want to get back to being a team like the best clutch team in the NBA,” Malone said.

The dual returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will no doubt aid in that attempt.

The lofty, ambitious blueprint laid out by the eighth-year coach didn’t neglect defense – the source of the biggest personnel changes this summer. Malone stated unequivocally that the goal was to be a top-five defense this season.

If it sounded like a lot, it’s because it was. But that’s what happens on the first day of school.

Murray back: Without divulging specifics, Murray admitted there were still a few physical limitations he was battling in his first official practice after tearing his ACL. But he was still in a light mood, simply happy to be back among his teammates.

“I feel rejuvenated in a way,” said Murray. “ … First day of school vibes but it’s my seventh year doing it. I’m getting up there. It’s a lot of fun. I’m just happy to be on the court and back in the mix, not over there somewhere rehabbing, running around. I’m just happy to be finding my routine again.”

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