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PHOENIX — Nuggets point guard Monte Morris carried the Suns’ 4-0 sweep like baggage at the departure terminal all summer.
Back in Phoenix, in the arena that shook from their raucous playoff run, Morris said he couldn’t wait for Wednesday’s opening night against the Suns, including a long-awaited rematch against close friend Chris Paul.
“It should be fun,” Morris said after the team’s shootaround. “… It stung the whole offseason.”
What Morris remembered most was the noise. Packed to the brim throughout the Suns’ march to the NBA Finals, Phoenix’s home arena left a lasting impression on players.
“We talk about it all the time, just how much energy was in this building,” Morris said. The goal, he said, was to minimize the noise by snuffing their runs early.
Will Barton, who returned from injury only to play the last three games of Denver’s second-round series vs. Phoenix, had the same mindset as Morris.
“I’m looking forward to it, I’ll just say that,” Barton said. “Obviously lose to a team in the playoffs, get swept on your home floor, and that’s your opening game, if you’re not looking forward to that, then I don’t know if you’re a competitor.”
Unsurprisingly, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic offered a de-facto shoulder shrug when asked about facing the Suns again. Jokic, maybe more than anybody else, had grounds to hold a grudge after an unceremonious and, to some, unjustified ejection ended his season before Game 4 was over.
“I don’t know,” Jokic began. “For me, it’s just a regular new season and new game day. For me, it’s nothing big. It’s normal.”
After two positive practices on Monday and Tuesday, the Nuggets held one last walk-through on Wednesday morning. The energy in the gym and the vibes were all positive.
As Nuggets coach Michael Malone observed his players getting extra shots up, he even offered up a few choice Spanish phrases to backup point guard Facu Campazzo.
“It’s like Christmas morning,” he said earlier this week. “You don’t know what you’re getting, but you’re getting something. … When you add into the mix, this happens to be the team that defeated us in a 4-0 sweep, that’s just a little extra maybe motivation.”
But Malone was careful not to dwell on last season’s disappointment. He emphasized on Wednesday that it’s a new season, with new expectations.
“This has not been a rallying cry, like ‘Hey, they swept us, we gotta come out here,” he joked.
Even his sobering perspective couldn’t curtail the excitement of opening night.