HEAD MAN: Mike Malone
THE NBA Global Games return to London this week and despite a run of four consecutive defeats, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone thinks the trip to the UK has come at a good time for his team:
“We’re honoured to be a part of the NBA Global Games. Spending some time away it’s an opportunity to bond, build team chemistry and we hope that’ll translate onto the court. We’ve had an up and down season so far but we’re a young team and I hope this trip will help us come together more as a team which will be great for all of us.
"I’m not sure how many of our guys have been to London before so it’s an opportunity to come to a great city, a great country and for the team to expand their horizons and experience a different culture. I hope we’ll have time to enjoy the trip and have a bit of fun as well.
"Everybody’s excited [to come to London], the guests that are coming with us, my wife started packing about two weeks ago! We can’t wait to get there and we know we’re going to have a great time.”
Malone has earmarked defense as the area in which his Nuggets side have to improve: “We have to find a way to defend better. Right now our defense is not helping us out but our offense has been great. Indiana are a high-tempo, high-scoring team so we need to improve as they can get up and down the court. We can make the playoffs this season no doubt but the only way we’ll do that is by committing to better defense.
"We had a great first half against the [San Antonio] Spurs but in the second half the game got away from us a little bit. We got too many turnovers and if you do that against a great team like the Spurs they’re going to make you pay.
"We’ve had a tough schedule lately, we played at Golden State who have the best record in the NBA, but we were in it the whole night and gave ourselves a chance to win that game. For a half [against the Spurs] we played against one of the best teams in the NBA and we went toe-to-toe with them. We need to be more consistent in our effort but there are plenty of positives that we can take from that.”
The Nuggets coach hopes the return of Wilson Chandler from injury will also boost the team’s chances this season: “Last year when he was ruled out for the season with a hip injury it was a devastating blow for the team. Wilson’s a guy who has so many intangibles, he’s a great defensive and offensive player, he can shoot for three, he drives the ball and rebounds well so having him back has been great for our team.
"Earlier in the year he was coming off the bench and playing at a very high level. I started him recently and now he’s back to coming off the bench but he’s a terrific player whenever he plays as he does so many things for this team. He’s healthy so hopefully he can continue and have a great season for us.”
Malone is also looking at how his team can contain the threat of three-time NBA All-Star, Paul George, who will line up for the Indiana Pacers in London: “We’ll have to have a lot of tactics to stop him. He’s a great player who is very versatile and he can hurt you in so many ways and any time you play against a player like Paul George, you need a team effort, so we’ll need to get into a rhythm and keep him off balance.
"He’s a heck of a player and I know that our guys are ready for the challenge.”
The Denver Nuggets host the Indiana Pacers at The O2 in London on January 12 as part of NBA Global Games London 2017. The game is live on BT Sport or via NBA LEAGUE PASS (www.nba.tv).