Third-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who is entering what may prove to be a make-or-break season with the Nuggets, says he's stayed in Denver this offseason and trained around Denver's coaching staff and his teammates more than he has in past summers.
On a conference call for the league's upcoming Africa Game (Saturday, Aug, 5, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN 2), Mudiay described his decision to stay more local during the offseason and how it will benefit him heading into training camp which is just over a month away.
"I just felt like it was important for me to be there. I felt like last summer going into my second year, I was there some but not as much," Mudiay said. "I felt it was important to get a better feel for my coaches and talk some stuff out as well and see some of the coaches that I'll be working with during the season and during the offseason. It was important for me to go back and spend some time up there and see some of my teammates as well. I don't look too much into that but then again it's something that Tim (Connelly) and Arturas (Karnisovas), they brought up to me as well and I took it into consideration and it was something that I wanted to do myself."
Coach Michael Malone also challenged Mudiay this summer to stay in Denver and around Pepsi Center more.
"I give Emmanuel a lot of credit. At the end of the season, we met 1-on-1," Malone said. "I told him 'it's the biggest summer of his life. You need to attack this summer.' I challenged him to work harder, at a faster pace and to be in Denver more, with our coaching staff more. He's been in Denver. I think Emmanuel's had a terrific summer. As far as what he needs to work on, as a point guard, he has to work on pace. He can work on his jump shot. Become a more efficient shooter."
The Nuggets' young core and many of their veterans have been in-and-out of the facility all summer, stopping in for workouts both on the court and in the weight room when in town. With players now trickling back into Denver and starting to get into more organized workouts and 5-on-5 games in the coming weeks, preparations for the season and training camp, which will be at the University of Colorado at Boulder, are coming into focus.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time. Obviously, the season is around the corner but I'm not trying to skip steps," Mudiay said. "I learned so much the last two years. I know what to do and what not to do. I've been in a tough situation sometimes, it's been good situations sometimes. The way I'm approaching this season is not thinking too much and just being myself regardless of what happens, not trying to please nobody but get my confidence back up and get as many wins as we can."
Mudiay gets back to his roots in Africa
The distance between Denver and Johannesburg, South Africa, the site of the NBA's second Africa Game, is just under 9,600 miles.
That's a long way to travel for an exhibition game and one that won't show up in Denver's win-loss column next season, but the matchup that will pit Team Africa, which includes Mudiay, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, against Team World carries meaning that goes beyond the game.
"This is my first time back in Africa in 16 years," Mudiay said. "Something that I always wanted to do is come back over here and the fact that I got the opportunity to do it and doing what I love to do and playing the game of basketball is definitely fun."
Mudiay and Team Africa, a roster comprised of players born in Africa and second-generation African players, will be led by team captains Luol Deng and Thabo Sefolosha, while Team World, which features NBA players from the rest of the globe, is led by captains Dirk Nowitzki and Kemba Walker, both of whom Mudiay said he's spent a significant amount of time with and gotten to know during this past week in South Africa. The exhibition follows Basketball Without Borders, a youth camp that leads up to the game on Saturday.
"It plays an emotional role," Mudiay said of his experience being back in Africa. "Because it's where I was born. Where my family was born as well, my mom, I finally got to see the life she lived to make a better life for me and my brothers."
From hiking and getting up close and personal with gorillas, to coaching campers at BWB, Mudiay says he now wants to "do more for the continent, more for the future."
"16 years is definitely a long time," Mudiay said. "The fact that we went, I finally got to see my grandfather that I haven't seen in a very long time, it was pretty cool and it was definitely life changing in a way. But it just makes you appreciate where you're come from."