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Marlowe Blog: Puzzle still coming together for Nuggets

Big picture slow to materialize in Denver's first two games

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is still working to make the puzzle pieces fit early in the season.
Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images

Do you remember working on jigsaw puzzles as a kid?

The most popular strategy was to find all the edges and put the border of the puzzle together first.

Many times it was tough. The colors looked the same, the edges didn’t fit together, and certain essential pieces were never easy to find.

No matter how much time it took, the Marlowe household would always complete the perimeter of a new puzzle before they started working on the image, be it a boy with a balloon, a grand oak tree or a beautiful field of flowers.

But just when you got the border nearly complete, you would discover a couple of pieces were missing (often later discovered under the couch, or in the dog’s mouth).

First-year Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and his assistants are working on the edges of their own jigsaw puzzle, all the while knowing that they are missing two key pieces – Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. However, these two pieces aren’t lost forever.

It’s not an easy task when you have to incorporate new coaches, new players and a new system into an organization. It’s a slow process, like a 500-piece puzzle.

Of course, the coaches would love to skip to the good part – the central image – but they know they have to lay the groundwork first.

The biggest piece of the Nuggets puzzle right now is center JaVale McGee. He was in foul trouble in the first game and wasn’t very productive in the second game. Despite this, let’s remember that for the first time in his young basketball career, McGee is an inside focal point. Shaw has made a commitment to get the ball inside. McGee has to reward his coach’s faith.

Another concern at the moment is the small forward position. With the injuries to Gallo and Ill Will, Anthony Randolph has been handed a huge opportunity. So far, he has been unable to find his groove. He had just two points in 15 minutes against Sacramento and five points in 14 minutes against Portland.

Who else can play small forward? Both Evan Fournier and Andre Miller have tried it. Jordan Hamilton and Quincy Miller haven’t played yet, but could be on deck, hopefully Big Papi-style.

Meanwhile, Ty Lawson has been very good in the first two outings. No. 3 has averaged 20.5 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds – all without really shooting the ball great. Wait until he does! Behind him, Andre Miller was solid in Game 1. Nate Robinson was spectacular in Game 2. Chalk up two more pieces of an increasingly complicated picture.

A pleasant surprise has been the play of center Timofey Mozgov. The big fella has looked good in both games and is doing exactly what the coaches want: scoring points, blocking shots and providing energy. The one caveat: Timo needs to improve his rebounding.

There are even more pieces to fit together at shooting guard. Randy Foye has been starting and Fournier has been coming off the bench; Robinson and Andre Miller have filled the position at times. Who gets the minutes? So far, everybody, as the Nuggets look for someone to claim the spot.

As you may know, a plethora of power forwards are pining for playing time. J.J. Hickson has been starting, with Kenneth Faried (last year’s incumbent) coming off the bench. Newcomer Darrell Arthur has been getting quality minutes because of his midrange jumper and quality defense. Oh, what to do at power forward . . .

Only when Gallo and Chandler return will Shaw have his full complement of puzzle pieces. Only then will he be able to start working on piecing together the boy with a balloon, the great oak tree or the beautiful field of flowers.


Chris Marlowe is in his 10th year as the play-by-play voice for the Nuggets on Altitude. He is a longtime broadcaster who also served as the captain of the gold media-winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1984.