PHILADELPHIA — When the Denver nuggets came to town last weekend, all eyes were on Nikola Jokic and his MVP match with Joel Embid. Jokić is Denver’s undeniable star, but while the Nuggets have risen to the top of the Western Conference standings this season, they’ve done so thanks to a number of highly productive teammates alongside Jokić.
Jamal Murray came back from a torn ACL averaging 19.1 points and 5.7 assists in 42 games. Michael Porter Jr. is averaging 16.3 points in 33 games after playing just nine games last season. These were the missing pieces the Nuggets needed so badly in last season’s playoffs. Denver has returned to the form it showed at the end of the 2020-21 season before Murray’s injury.
But he is Aaron Gordon which just might be Denver’s best case for a second All-Star. Gordon is in his third and thriving season in Denver, averaging 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and a career-best 57.9 percent from the floor. He shoots so well that his effective field goal percentage is the same as his free throw percentage – 62.3%.
At 27, it feels like Gordon is finally fitting in, that he’s not being asked too much to do and in the right niche. Gordon is a force in transition — Landry Shamet can attest — and is an excellent cutter, averaging 1.45 points per possession on cuts, which puts him in the 80th percentile in the league, according to Synergy Sports. His effectiveness and efficiency in attack this season has been complemented by his usual defensive prowess.
Athleticism sat down with Gordon last Friday to talk about his compatibility with the Nuggets, learning how to play Jokić and whether the Nuggets are title favorites.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
You’ve been here, obviously, in previous years, but do you feel like you’ve found some sort of comfort this season that maybe wasn’t there in recent years, just in terms of how to play with everyone world ?
Yeah. It’s good to have a coach for several years in a row. I haven’t had this since high school. In Orlando, I had five different coaches in five years – really six – and then I was traded. Now it’s like the second full year I’ve been with Coach Malone. It’s good. It’s good. You understand your teammates. Everything seems a little more solid and something to lean on. The foundation is there and you feel you could build.
There are so many player moves every year and we talked about free agency teams and trades, all that stuff. Are we somehow underestimating the importance of continuity?
Sure. You have to at least give a team three or four years to see what they could do before you blow them up.
Did you take time to understand how to play with Jokić?
Didn’t take me long at all.
You shake your head like no.
I had watched his game. He plays the right way. So if you’re open, it finds you. That’s kind of what I do. Just a little enter where I am.
Not many guys are like that. Willing passers like that and you’ve never played with someone like that before. I don’t know if it takes time, maybe, to figure out the fact that wherever I go I could get a pass or, as a great cutter, be able to play in a way that facilitates that.
We get better and better as we play with each other and understand each other better and better. But I like to play the right way. He likes to play the right way. He gave me a few things to do here and there to nuance the game a bit, to make it easier for him, but I try to make his job as easy as he makes mine.
What are the things he told you about? The nuances ?
Just like where to screen, where to look, how to slide, how to fend off your defender and things like that.
Why do you think this team was able to play so well? Is this just jamal and michael back? Or is it just something else in this season that takes you to another level?
Return of Jamal and Mike, and we improved.
It’s such a big leap, I don’t know if it’s something else too.
I don’t think it was too big of a jump. When I got here, we were on a 14-game winning streak. It looked like we had an opportunity to win a championship, and then Jamal got injured. So we got Jamal back and I think we got back to that caliber.
Do you think at all about what could happen that season when you got here?
Oh yeah. I thought we had a great chance of winning. It’s anybody’s league, and I think we’re back.
Is it fair to call you the main contenders for the title at this point?
I am not sure. We’ll leave that to everyone.
I know you don’t want to play pundit. It’s a game you don’t want to play. For you personally, how much would it mean to you to be on an All-Star team?
It would mean a lot. It would mean a lot to me. I hope I will get there.
Would it help with shoe sales? I’ve seen you put your shoe on at press conferences.
It would definitely help shoe sales.
AG opened his press conference: “Let me clog my shoes shamelessly.” pic.twitter.com/DgwD4xMXpW
—Mike Singer (@msinger) January 16, 2023
SeatGeek has renewed its partnership with the New Orleans Pelicans to remain its main ticketing platform with a new multi-year agreement. The renewal has additional significance for SeatGeek; the Pelicans were the first NBA team to work directly with the company in 2017. Today, it is one of four NBA clients, along with the brooklyn nets, Cleveland Cavaliersand, from next season, the Utah Jazz.
“It really started, with the basic premise that most of our partnerships start with, that ticketing should be better, that the vision of the future and where we are today is not where the properties wanted. be, ultimately,” SeatGeek EVP of Client Partnerships says Jeff Ianello. “And it’s not just in major professional sports, but across the ticketing landscape as a whole.”
While Ticketmaster has felt the heat lately for its monopoly grip on ticketing concerts and music events, it also has a strong grip on the sports market. Ticketmaster is the ticket provider for 73% of NBA teams, according to a SeatGeek spokesperson, and has at least 59% of the market in the NHL, NFL and MLS also.
SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger testified before the Senate judicial panel last week about Ticketmaster, but Ianello believes the same issues arise in sports.
“The conversation last week is the same because the same teams and managers who hold the contracts for the teams hold a similar contract for the arena or for the stadium,” Groetzinger said. “There are very, very few teams and venues that are separate, whose team deal is separate from their arena. For that singular decision point to capture it 99% of the time.
Ianello, former senior vice president of sales at Phoenix Suns and vice president of marketing and business operations for the NBA team, came to SeatGeek in 2015 and the company has expanded its sports business since then. His next step, he says, is to use his Rally technology to be able to provide customers with personalized in-game offers in the arenas of the teams they serve.
It’s part of a shift he said he’s witnessed in the market over the past decade.
“The market itself, from the perspective of rightsholders, has changed dramatically,” Ianello said. “And our belief is that we have driven this change, and we are very proud of that. From my seat coming from the league and the side of the team, I am extremely proud of that. We have made the category more financially lucrative. We’ve created a situation with our competitors where our technology and our competitors’ technology has continued to raise the bar. And you see our entry into this space has caused that. It gives us a lot of confidence that there is There is hope that with more participants in space, we could have better products for our fans and better products for the teams.
“That’s really what it’s been about the past few weeks – what kind of future do we want as an industry? Do we want one, are we going to sit down and have a player or do we really want to have one. designed and built space where we can have multiple participants in that space and create this arms race for better technology and better and more lucrative team offerings?”
(Aaron Gordon top photo: Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)