Western Notes: Nuggets, McDermott, Green, Pelicans, Wolves

The Nuggets have debuted a new “Defensive Player of the Game” chain, something head coach Michael Malone hopes will inspire his team throughout the season, as relayed by Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (Twitter links).

Will Barton was awarded the chain after the team’s win over Phoenix on Wednesday, while Nikola Jokic received it after the club’s victory against San Antonio on Friday. Denver held both teams to under 100 points.

“For us, we want to be a better defensive team,” Malone said. “So maybe having a Defensive Player of the Game, necklace, if you will, maybe that motivates some guys.”

The Nuggets finished 47-25 last season behind an MVP campaign from Jokic, but defending has long been an issue for the team. Jokic, for his part, appears to be setting the tone early about the team’s need to commit defensively.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs wing Doug McDermott is proving that he’s one of the top shooters in the world, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. McDermott has made 10-of-18 threes (56%) in his first three games, displaying his value as a floor-spacer in San Antonio. He signed a three-year, $42MM deal to join the franchise this past summer.
  • Will Guillory of The Athletic examines whether Pelicans coach Willie Green can find a way to fix the team’s issues. New Orleans has opened the season with a 0-3 record in Green’s first campaign. The club has upcoming home games scheduled against the Hawks on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
  • The Timberwolves are trying to establish a new identity this season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes“When you’re building an identity, obviously we don’t have one, to be very fairly honest in the NBA,” Karl-Anthony Towns said, “but if you want to build one, it’s going to take some time where you’re going to have to play your game even when people don’t understand how we’re playing. You try to be physical defensively, especially, so if we’re going to get a little foul here and there over physicality and building our identity and our culture, then that has to be what it is.” Minnesota struggled last season largely due to injuries, but the team is 2-0 to start the season.
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