For all Fat Lever knew, he was summoned to Denver to check out the new Nuggets before the start of a special season, the 50th Anniversary Season.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not doing anything,’” Lever said. “More than happy to come down.”
Once here, Lever was taken on a tour of the vastly-changed Pepsi Center. He was invited to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, which was held in front of KSE staff. After shootaround, Nuggets coach Michael Malone spoke, then team president Josh Kroenke spoke. Holding a jersey in his hand, he called over to bring Lever in front of the crowd.
It was Lever’s No. 12.
“How would you like to see this number up there?” Kroenke said.
Lever was taken aback. He was surprised and overjoyed and overwhelmed all at once. He fought back tears. “I wasn’t even expecting to be on the court at that time,” Lever said.
But he was. And on Dec. 2, during a home game against the L.A. Lakers, the Nuggets will retire his jersey. Lever loves the Nuggets every bit as much as the fans and organization love him.
“I’m very, very grateful and appreciative,” Lever said. “It came out of the blue. For the ones who kept the secret, they’ve got a vault. I had no idea and I as I stand here (talking to media), I’m still in shock. It’s good. I’m grateful.”
Lever, who said he is a fan of the current team, will be in attendance for tonight’s Nuggets game against Oklahoma City. Here’s what to look for tonight against Oklahoma City.
Wilson Chandler. Chandler is in a new role this season – starting small forward – and Malone wants to get him on track offensively before it officially starts on Oct. 18 at Utah. The veteran comes into tonight’s game averaging 6.0 points per exhibition game, and has only taken average of 6.7 shots per game. “Right now, I think Wilson’s just kind of…playing,” Malone said. “I’m hoping tonight he can kind of have a breakout game; impact the game with his rebounding and defense, and just be more aggressive on offense.”
Spacing between Jokić and Millsap. The Nuggets new frontcourt duo of Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap has made good progress in working as a tandem, but the one area that needs the most ironing out is the spacing between the two on offense. Both players are used to coming down and being up top, with the basketball, making decisions, most of the time. For each player, that time is now cut in half. Staying out of the same spaces of the court is a must for the two bigs to coexist effectively, and getting down who is doing what from possession to possession is key.
The full 48. Nuggets coach Michael Malone is looking for more of a consistently good defensive effort, as close to 48 minutes as he can get. And he’s willing to stretch out minutes for the starting five to get it.
OKC’s Big Three. The Nuggets are getting a crucial first look at the Thunder’s All-Star trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. No matter what happens, it will be an important window into what to expect during the regular season when the Northwest Division rivals matchup four times.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.