COLUMNS

The Nuggets are still learning the toughest lesson for NBA players

Dec 8, 2021, 6:49 AM
Monte Morris...
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

When the question was asked, of three well-known coaches, the answers were pretty interesting. And pretty consistent.

Question: “What is your biggest challenge as an NBA head coach?’

Here are the answers.

Gregg Popovich: “Convincing NBA players that they cannot win on great talent alone. It also takes great effort.”

George Karl: “Getting guys to play hard. Getting guys to give a great effort every single night.”

Jeff Van Gundy: “Getting players to believe that they have to play with effort, every single game, to win in this league.”

It seems fairly simple, at least according to three highly successful NBA coaches. You play hard and you have a chance to win. You don’t play hard and you get beat. One would think NBA players would also come to the same realization. And I actually think they do. The large majority anyway. So why is that Nuggets coach Michael Malone is complaining about his team’s lack of effort, seemingly after every loss?

Malone’s postgame comments after Monday’s loss at Chicago were a case in point. Irked by his team’s lack of transition defense, Malone said, “We don’t have a game plan for transition. Transition is effort. Period.”

And in response to a question about his team’s lack of effort to begin the third quarter, something that seems to be a habit for the Nuggets, Malone responded, “I asked the team what I should say differently at halftime to try to get them to give more effort after halftime. Do you want me to sing? Do you want me to dance?”

So why do NBA players, knowing the consequences of not giving great effort, still don’t always do it? Just play hard, all the time, right? Well, former Denver Nuggets LaPhonso Ellis says it’s sometimes not that easy.

“So many times, players think they are playing hard when they really are not. They convince themselves they are giving great effort when maybe they are not. They are in second gear and they think that’s all they have, when they really could be in third or fourth gear. I experienced that when I was playing, especially early in my career. It’s really easy to do.”

Ellis went on to say, as well, that sometimes NBA players get a false sense of security. In a blowout win, which every team has, where everything falls into place and it just seems easy, young players think they can do that every night.

“Sometimes, when you get an easy win and things just came really easy in that game, you think you can do that the next night,” Ellis said. “But you can’t. Nine out of 10 games, you have to give that great effort or you will get beat. It’s that simple.”

So, what is the answer for a team that doesn’t always play hard? “Fonz” answers that question, as well.

“The key is for young players to learn these lessons. The ones that do become consistent winners. The ones that don’t drive coaches crazy and find themselves on the outside looking in.”

So, there you go. Learn tough lessons early on.

Let’s hope the Nuggets can do just that!

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