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Long wait for NBA Finals is a unique challenge for the Denver Nuggets

“I can’t go home and be in Game 7 mindset because my wife and kids would leave me,” he joked.

“So I have to force myself to take a deep breath and remind myself that I am a husband, I am a father, and to be a part of my family. I think you have to take time to enjoy the moment and be a regular person.” AFP

MIAMI – For the Denver Nuggets, their 4-0 sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals has left them with something rarely experienced in the National Basketball Association (NBA) – time on their hands.

Miami and Boston continue to battle it out in the East, with the Heat 3-2 up heading into Saturday’s Game 6. Denver, meanwhile, have a 10-day wait before heading into their first-ever NBA Finals.

“You’re playing every other day for so long and now all of a sudden you have a eight, nine, 10-day break,” said Nuggets head coach Michael Malone on Friday.

“It’s impossible to keep your rhythm if you’re not playing games. You can do whatever you want in practice, but there’s no way you can replicate playing an NBA play-off game.”

He also said the team had Tuesday off and were given the option of practice on Wednesday before a fitness session on Thursday and a more typical, albeit shorter, practice session on Friday.

Adding to the strangeness of the situation, the coaching staff cannot yet begin preparing tactically for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 1.

“It’s a tough situation because you’re just kind of preparing for an opponent (but) you don’t know who you are going to play. So, as I told our players, right now, this is about us,” Malone said.

The coach is using the sessions to “clean up” some elements of the Nuggets’ play but he is also trying to ensure his team maintain their focus.

“It’s a delicate balance because I think in life, not just in sports, you have to enjoy moments. I think if you don’t enjoy the small victories and the moments along the way, you’re missing something,” he said.

“At the same time, we have much work in front of us. Our goal wasn’t just to win the Western Conference. It wasn’t just to get to the NBA Finals. Our goal is to win a championship.

“I think it’s my job to remind our guys – don’t get soft with success. I want us staying hungry. I want us staying desperate and urgent and disciplined and that’s the biggest challenge right now.”

Malone has his own personal challenges though, as he sits at home watching the Celtics-Heat games on television.

He has assigned members of staff to detailed analysis of both teams and says that “no matter who it is, we know that we’ll have our hands full”.

But he is not sat on the couch running various scenarios through his head, accepting that he too needs to find a little balance before the push for his first-ever NBA championship.