The Pepsi Center held an open court practice for the Jr. NBA Week. This practice featured 15-20 kids doing on-court drills with the likes of Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Juan Hernangomez, the Super Mascot Rocky, and of course, Steve Hess.
The kids obviously had a great time and Nurkic/Jokic clearly enjoy being around and interacting with kids and fans. Coach Malone got involved with the activities and taught layups on one side of the court.
The fun really started when the announcer started calling out the names of the players. One by one the Nuggets ran out onto center court. Everyone from Wilson Chandler to Mike Miller appeared and seemed to be enjoying themselves. After the introductions, Emmanuel Mudiay gave a brief speech thanking the audience for their attendance and support.
The Nuggets themselves practiced briefly and only did basic shooting drills. They started with some layups and a few dunks followed up by a ton of 3 point shooting. The surprise player to be most on their 3 point game was easily Jusuf Nurkic. For a big man who has only made 5 three-point attempts his entire career, Nurk was on fire, making the whole court wet. Behind the Bosnian Beast, Jamal Murray was also feeling it, but this comes as no surprise considering Murray dropped 113 of them in 36 games as a Kentucky Wildcat; Efficiently shooting at about 41% from behind the three-point line as well. When he took shots for fun his arc was so high it seemed like he could hit the colossal jumbotron housed in the Pepsi Center. Shortly after the three-point shooting, the players had a small competition to see who could hit a half court shot first. After a long drought of made shots, Nurkic drained it from the right corner of the half line.
For the most part, The Nuggets seemed to be getting along great with each other the whole time, but this didn't stop them from splitting up into different team/social groups. Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton, and Darrell Arthur participated in the practice considerably less than most and spent most of their time socializing and laughing on the side. Gary Harris would join this group often, but focused on the Jr. NBA players and the crowd. Another tight clique was the rookies; Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, and Juancho Hernangomez never strayed too far from one another. Even during a large portion of the shooting drills, Murray and Beasley were both practicing their three-point shooting.
The practice was not a real or intense practice by any means, but watching players outside of an NBA game is always great. After reading reports that players such as Darrell Arthur and Danilo Gallinari asked not to be traded and are taking pay cuts to stay in Denver, it's great to see the players genuinely having a good time. Their chemistry and legit display of enjoyment gives hope to a city desperate for their basketball team to make the playoffs again.