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Nuggets seek remedy for early season growing pains

Lineup change could be option for Denver coach Brian Shaw

Nuggets center JaVale McGee has played a combined 23 minutes in Denver's first two games.
Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images

They’re called growing pains for good reason.

At times with young players, the path toward progress and development can hurt..

Playing without two of their top forwards, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, the Denver Nuggets are off to a bumpy start through two games. First-year coach Brian Shaw is far from satisfied with his team’s play, but he understands that progress doesn’t always come as quickly as you would like.

“It’s a process. I’ve said that all along,” Shaw said. “We’ll take our lumps while we try to get through this process. Hopefully not too much longer, but it’s a process. We’re learning. We just have to steadily improve on a daily basis.”

After a film session on Saturday, the Nuggets returned to the court Sunday for the first of two practices in advance of Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.

With Denver off to an 0-2 start, Shaw is considering lineup changes against the Spurs. Power forward Kenneth Faried is nursing a bruised back but move into the starting lineup after posting 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

“There’ll probably be some changes,” Shaw said. “We’ll have two good days of practice to kind of figure that out. We definitely are going to have to inject some more energy to start out the games.”

Shaw also would like to get center JaVale McGee on track. Foul trouble hindered McGee in Denver’s season-opener against Sacramento, while Shaw thought he looked winded against Portland. He has played a total of 23 minutes.

“I keep talking to him and keep staying positive with him,” Shaw said. “If he wants to stay on the floor, his level of physicality has to increase. His stamina has to increase. I want him to have more minutes. I want him to have that experience of being in the game in situations when the game is on the line. But he has to earn that trust in me that he can perform and maintain a certain level of physicality when he’s out there.”

Shaw sat down with McGee before the season and showed him game film of Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert. He wanted McGee to take note of Hibbert’s defensive positioning and how he jumps straight up to challenge shots without fouling.

Shaw also used New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler and Cleveland Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao as examples of how McGee can influence a game without scoring.

“They’re not any more skilled offensively than JaVale, but they have a motor,” Shaw said. “You look at the box score at the end of the night and they may only have six points, but they impact the game.

“They have 16 or 17 rebounds and they’re active on the defensive end. They’re quarterbacking the defense. They’ve managed to figure out how to impact the game and use what they have to help their team. (McGee) has to get to the point where he can do that too.”

McGee agrees with his coach. He’s working toward improving his conditioning, and he said film review has helped him gain a better understanding of the importance of keeping opposing big men of out of the middle.

McGee is looking forward to putting the principles into practice when the Nuggets look for their first win of the season Tuesday night.

“It’s only two games,” McGee said. “Everybody has to get the kinks out. This is our first time playing together. Once everybody starts doing what we have to do, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”