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Jokic and the Nuggets gear up for road ahead as they try to defend their NBA title


DENVER NUGGETS Last season: 53-29, won the first NBA title in franchise history. Coach: Michael Malone (10th season with Nuggets,…

DENVER NUGGETS

Last season: 53-29, won the first NBA title in franchise history.

Coach: Michael Malone (10th season with Nuggets, 367-270; 12th season overall, 406-337)

What to expect: Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat in five games to hoist the franchise’s first Larry O’Brien Trophy. Before that, the Nuggets were known more for their iconic rainbow skyline jerseys and their ABA roots. The combination of Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver to a 16-4 mark in the playoffs, including a sweep of their nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the Western Conference finals. They have the full attention of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers after they heard some perceived gloating out of the Mile High City. Perhaps fitting the Lakers are in town for the opener on Oct. 24 when the Nuggets raise their championship banner to the rafters. Coach Michael Malone insisted the page has been turned on last season. “If we’re serious about being a team that can repeat, if we’re serious about trying to be a team that can be a dynasty, we have to bring our best every single day,” Malone said. “I don’t want to live in the past.” The first order of business for Denver is finding a replacement for veteran guard Bruce Brown, who signed a lucrative deal with Indiana. Christian Braun will receive more minutes. So, too, will guard Reggie Jackson and Peyton Watson. Denver boasts one of the top starting lineups in the league in Jokic, Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Departures: Brown, F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant, G Ish Smith.

Additions: G/F Justin Holiday, F Julian Strawther, G Jalen Pickett, F Hunter Tyson.

Player to watch: Murray. Everyone knows when the playoffs roll around, he takes his game to an entirely different level. The challenge from Malone is to do that night in and night out in the regular season. Murray, who missed the 2021-22 season to recover from a torn ACL, is looking to make his first All-Star team. “What Jamal did in the playoffs was ridiculous,” Malone said. “I think if Jamal can continue to play the way he played during those playoffs and get off to that kind of start, that’ll be so impactful for our group.”

Season opener: Oct. 24 against rival Lakers.

FanDuel Sportsbook NBA title odds: 5 1/2 to 1.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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