When the Nuggets called last week to open training camp in San Diego, their leader Nikola Jokic was not with them.
While Jokic waited for the birth of his daughter in Denver, the rest of the team came together to lay the groundwork for what the Nuggets believed could be championship season.
At that ceremony, most of the team’s new or returning players said what brought them back to Denver. Underlying message: Don’t take this season lightly.
According to 15-year-old NBA legend Jeff Greene, among the speakers were Austin Rivers, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. The latter two made major commitments towards Denver as recent expansions.
“Being a big politician on this team, I think it comes with the territory to explain your experience,” Greene told The Post. “I’ve been through teams where we’ve won a lot, I’ve been through teams where we’ve lost. I’ve been in the middle. …15 years is a long time.
Green said, “I just asked them to appreciate the moment, don’t take it lightly, and don’t take this team lightly because we have a very good team, a team that can compete for the championship.” ” “(We) have to put aside all egos and personal things, which, I know with this team, there’s really no ego.”
Possibly among the NBA’s elite where the Nuggets stand, Green left the Brooklyn Nets, widely considered the title favorite, to be Jokic’s backup. From afar, Green said, he was impressed with how Jokic carried the Nuggets in the wake of Jamal Murray’s injury and wanted to see it firsthand.
“As a basketball player, you watch it and you get worried about it,” Green said. “When Denver called, given the opportunity, I jumped on it.”
Rivers, another free agent retreat, returned for a variety of reasons. When the Nuggets signed Rivers for 10 days last season, both sides found success.
“The overall message was that you don’t take years like this lightly,” Rivers said. “I’ve been in the league for 10 years now, and it’s one of the best teams I’ve ever played for, if not the best. You never know when you’ll have a shot.
“Everyone has windows to do something special in terms of winning collectively. I think that’s just the thrust for this year,” Rivers said. “We’ve got a really good team, and the league is wide open. How much better chance do you want than that?”