Roster turnover in the NBA can move at lightning speed, and on Friday Nuggets coach Michael Malone opened a window into just how fast it can occur.
Three years ago, he was the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. When the Kings arrive in town for Saturday night’s game against the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center not one of the players in a Sacramento uniform will have been on the roster when Malone was there.
“I think it’s a completely new team,” Malone said.
In fact, just from last season to this one the Kings underwent about as extreme a makeover as any NBA team will from one year to the next. From the start of last season to the Kings opening night roster this season, a whopping 12 players are gone including six of their top eight scorers.
In their place: Youth.
Eleven players are either rookies or in their second year in the league. The Kings did add some influential veterans such as point guard George Hill, small forward Vince Carter and power forward Zach Randolph. They’ll help guide a young and very athletic team through the ups-and-downs of an NBA season.
“I see a different team,” Malone said. “You combine the veterans that they have…with the (De’Aaron) Foxes, the (Willie) Cauley-Steins, the Skal (Labissieres), Buddy Hield. They are trying to reinvent themselves, find a new identity, and they’ve brought in some very good veteran players to help their young players develop and hopefully speed up that process. I think they are in a good spot and their future is very bright.”
Malone just doesn’t want that bright future to shine on Saturday. It is the Nuggets home opener, and a big night overall, as the franchise’s biggest legends – the players with retired jerseys, and coach Doug Moe, whose coaching wins are also a retired number – will be celebrated as part of the team’s 50th Anniversary season.
The Nuggets know getting a win against the Kings starts with taking care of the ball.
“It was such a huge problem the other night,” Malone said. “We can’t throw the ball all over the place and waste possessions and expect to win. And then our execution. When you look back on that game in Utah, we had chances to go up 17, 18 points.
“And then that fourth quarter execution. Having that poise, having adversity, and to be honest playing 48 minutes. We have not played 48 minutes in five preseason games and now one regular season game. You have to be able to do that if you want to win in the NBA.”
Offensively, the Nuggets want to repeat their play from the first three quarters of the game at Utah. Will Barton was the best player on the court in the first half, scoring 21 points and only missing one shot.
“They’re a young team, just like us,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “A lot of new pieces. We’re going to see a little bit of everything – speed with the backcourt; interior with Zach Randolph. We’ve just got to be ready for that.”
NOTE. The Nuggets got out of Wednesday’s game at Utah without any injuries, and enter Saturday’s game fully healthy.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.