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Malone shows he can speed things up with young Nuggets

"Excited to see the people that I care about," Nuggets coach Michael Malone

"Excited to see the people that I care about," Nuggets coach Michael Malone.
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"Excited to see the people that I care about," Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

Labels can be hard to shake.

In his stops as an assistant coach, Michael Malone developed a reputation for being defensive-minded.

So when he was hired as the Denver Nuggets’ coach before the 2015-16 season, some wondered if Malone could adapt to a young roster and play a style that fit, especially in a city where being able to run in the high altitude can provide a greater homecourt advantage.

Well, Malone isn’t stubborn or foolish enough to force a style on a team.

The Nuggets are still a young team, and Malone has them scoring at a high rate as he looks to build for the future while winning games in the present.

Denver entered Saturday sixth in the NBA at 108.1 points per game. Denver is fifth in pace with 100.44 possessions per 48 minutes.

“It’s funny – I got fired in Sacramento (in 2014) because of style of play,” Malone said. “And right now, you’d say we’re playing a pretty fast brand of basketball, and that speaks to playing to the strength of your roster. That wasn’t the strength of our roster in Sacramento, to play up and down. Here, we get up and down.”

That’s not to say Malone isn’t bothered by Denver’s defense. The Nuggets are giving up 110.9 points per game, fourth most in the NBA. Teams shoot 47.2 percent against the Nuggets, tied for third highest in the league.

Still, Denver (14-23)remains in the mix with Portland, Sacramento and New Orleans. They’re within two games of each other for the eighth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

But Malone’s job isn’t simply to keep the Nuggets competitive with a chance to make the postseason. He must continue to teach and breed improvement from a collection of youngsters Denver hopes will be a part of many playoff runs in future seasons.

The Nuggets have only two players, Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller, over 30 years old.

And the Nuggets face the challenge of having a lot of young perimeter players while trying to find more time for rookie guard Jamal Murray. He’s the only rookie in Denver’s rotation.

“That’s my greatest challenge every night,” Malone said. “Forget philosophy. I think every coach plays to the strength of his roster, and that’s what I try to do. As far as balancing and getting our young guys minutes, that right there is a challenge because Gary Harris is a good player, Will Barton is a good player ... But as we go on, I’ll make sure I get Jamal out there, because he has a chance to be special.”

DeMarcus Cousins recaps Tuesday's win.

The ‘This Can’t be Life’ Award – Atlanta general manager Wes Wilcox has a lot to worry about these days, having already traded sharpshooter Kyle Korver and reportedly looking to deal Paul Millsap.

So a report from Deadspin that he made a joke that could be deemed racially insensitive at an event for season-ticket holders Dec. 7 isn’t exactly welcome news.

“I know you guys may be angry with me, but I’m used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative,” Wilcox reportedly said.

Wilcox, who is white, apologized, but if any GM in the league should know about racial insensitivity, it’s Wilcox.

Former general manager Danny Ferry resigned in 2015 after a report surfaced in which Ferry read a scouting report that said free agent Luol Deng, who is from South Sudan, had “a little African” in him.

It’s a reminder to leave the comedy to the professionals or prepare for a backlash.

The ‘Keeping It Way Too Real’ award – This very well could be the Draymond Green section.

“Our fourth-quarter offense has been atrocious,” Green told reporters after the Warriors blew a 24-point lead and lost to Memphis in overtime on Friday. “I can really care less. I’m actually happy we lost today, because there are some things that we need to correct in order to win a championship.”

Every team needs a player like Green, who holds himself and teammates accountable.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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