Creating solid team chemistry is a funky science.
Last season’s uber-talented Brooklyn Nets are a prime example of a magic potion that blew up in a hurry.
But the Nuggets, who entered Wednesday night’s game against injury-riddled Phoenix riding an 11-game home winning streak, seem to have all of the right elements at the season’s mid-point.
“As a locker room, as a team, this is the best locker room I have been a part of,” guard Bruce Brown said Monday after the Nuggets beat the Lakers, 122-109, at Ball Arena. “Everybody likes everybody, everybody is cool with everyone. We do mostly all things together, even if we have a night off, we’ll do things together. I’m happy I’m in this locker room.”
Brown was a member of the Nets team that was swept by Boston in humiliating fashion in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Brown isn’t pointing fingers or spitting sour grapes, but it’s clear that the fourth-year player is content in Denver.
“It’s just a bunch of good guys,” he said. “I’m not saying I didn’t play with other good guys with other franchises, but it’s just a bunch of good guys, all on the same page, so it’s been good.”
Coach Michael Malone was pleased to hear Brown’s assessment.
“I think the remarkable thing about Bruce’s quote is he’s a new player here, coming to a team where some of the guys have been together for a while,” Malone said. “We have eight new players here. For a group that was relatively new together and so many new pieces — old guys, veterans — how quickly they were able to come together and create some chemistry and camaraderie was remarkable.”
Denver entered Wednesday’s game leading the Western Conference with a 27-13 record and with an NBA-best 17-3 mark at home. The victory over the Lakers marked the Nuggets’ third consecutive game scoring 120 or more points. They were 18-1 this season when scoring at least 120.
The Nuggets, to be sure, are a disparate group of athletes, led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, who owns a stable full of horses in his native Serbia. But the players have found common ground, in the locker room and on the court.
“There are a lot of different personalities, but we all like the same things, basically, except for (Jokic) and his horses,” Brown said. “But we like video games and we like to have a good time.”
It’s common for a group of Nuggets to gather for dinner during an off night on the road. Malone believes that kinship is key to the Nuggets’ success.
“You’re either together or you’re not,” he said. “For me, it’s pretty simple. The best teams in the NBA are usually really connected, on and off the court. And you can see it. And on the flip side, you can see the teams that have no chemistry. You have five individuals playing for themselves out there.”
Of course, chemistry comes easy when a team is winning. But Malone has seen it at other times, too.
“I’m not surprised to hear Bruce talk about that because I saw that in September during training camp,” Malone said. “I saw it when we lost three games in a row to start the month of December. And I’ve seen it throughout this last run where we’re 13-3.
“And that’s the most important thing. It’s easy to be together and connected when you’re winning games. The true test is when you’re going through adversity, and obviously, we’ll rely on that to get through adversity whenever we face it.”