By Christopher Dempsey, Nuggets Insider
LAS VEGAS – If Nikola Radicevic could have sped up the clock on getting to this point, he would have. If he could wave a magic wand that would allow him to stay with the Nuggets into training camp and the regular season, he’d do that, too. But this league demands players play their way in. The former Nuggets draft pick is trying to do just that.
This is Radicevic’s first summer league. He was drafted by the Nuggets in 2015, 57th overall, and is hoping to make some headway into realizing his NBA dream.
“Finally, I am here, I can spend the summer here in Denver,” Radicevic said. “And I feel really great and happy because I’m here.”
The 6-foot-5 point guard gave the Nuggets some good minutes in their summer league-opening loss to Houston on Friday night. He finished with four points on 2-of-2 shooting, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 16 minutes of action. When he entered the game midway through the first quarter, the Nuggets were down 10. When he exited the game in the second quarter the team was down just seven.
“You can just tell, he’s a pro,” Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori said. “He’s played in some big games. He knows how to run a team, knows how to get guys in the right spots. He’s always communicating and talking.”
Two of Radicevic’s three turnovers are easily fixable. They were throwaways on plays he came off the screen and immediately tossed a pass back weak side without truly looking to see what the defense was doing. Early in the game, he’d completed them to wide open Nuggets and gotten an assist. Houston players adjusted by jumping the passing lanes and picking them off. His adjustment is making sure to read the situation each time off the screen to be certain defenders aren’t cheating to steal a pass, and then make the delivery – or keep the dribble or hit the roll man.
But Radicevic showed good poise in his first action. Prior to the first summer league game, Radicevic talked about why he wants to stay in Denver this season.
“There’s many things I have to improve, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to stay here,” he said. “Because this is the right place where I can work on the things that I need.”
Radicevic has started off well.
“He comes in, controls the game, can get to the bucket and make the extra pass,” Nori said. “He was good (Friday night).”
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES FROM GAME 1
Robert Carter Jr. – The big man had a stellar shooting night, going 5-of-7 overall, including 2-of-2 from the 3-point throw line. Carter also made all five of his free throws, meaning he missed just two shots of any kind all night long. He finished with 17 points and six rebounds and was one of three Nuggets with a positive plus-minus (a team-best +13).
Tyler Lydon – Once the rookie settled in, he began playing with more speed and explosion. The 3-point shot he made was taken in rhythm and with confidence. He rebounded the ball well (four total), and displayed the ability to make plays in the passing game (two assists).
“I thought he never got excited, the game or the moment never got too big for him,” Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori said. “He’s the one guy we need to get some more shots because I do believe he’s one of those guys every time he shoots it you think it’s going in.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com or @chrisadempsey on Twitter