DENVER - Perhaps the fondest memories of Brian Shaw's childhood are from a river, or a lake, or the closest splash of water that looked fishy.
They are memories of tackle boxes and sack lunches. His grandfather was there. So was his father. Li'l Brian was there, fishing rod in hand, dreams of tight lines swimming through his imagination. And there's no imagination like that of a boy going fishing.
"As a kid, pretty much every Friday when they'd get off work, we'd go fishing for the weekend," Shaw said Tuesday in a corner of the Nuggets practice gym. The longing on his face suggested his mind had wandered off to the Bay Area shorelines where he once baited a hook.
This is a good place for a man's mind to wander. Fixing the Nuggets will take more than good health or a blockbuster trade.
First, Brian Shaw needs a fishing trip. With five games left in his first season as an NBA coach, the Nuggets are a bandaged mystery. There's so much uncertainty, the coach needs ample alone time to clear his mind and formulate a plan for the future. There's no better place for contemplation than on a river.
"I normally keep my pole in the back of my truck," Shaw told me. "If there's a puddle on the side of the road, I'm going to test it and see if there's fish in it."
Perfect. Pull over to the Platte and brainstorm. Figure out how to answer the questions that shadow the Nuggets with more anxiety than a blind date.
How does JaVale McGee fit with Shaw's system? The $44 million center played only five games due to a foot injury.
"And he was already a question mark, if he's capable of being that starting center," Shaw said. "We still don't know."
What tweaks to the roster are coming in the offseason? Shaw wants to add a perimeter defender and a veteran who can serve as a "policeman" in the locker room.
"I think there has to be some change," he said. "It doesn't mean we need to have a face-lift and change everything. (But) there are some things we drastically need."
Most important, how does he view the roster when it's finally healthy?
"That's the frustrating thing about even going into this offseason and looking forward to next season: not knowing what you have," Shaw said.
See, lots of questions.
That should mean lots of time on the water.
"I'm going to Alaska this summer to fish for salmon and halibut," he added.
That's a start. After this lost season, the sad truth is the Nuggets will be starting over in 2014-15. A starting five of their injured players would beat many of the Nuggets teams from the 90s: Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and McGee. Bring in Nate Robinson (knee) and Darrell Arthur (hip) off the bench.
"I've never seen anything like this before," Shaw said. "It's very, very unusual that you have as many injuries as we've had."
The injuries present a problem for now - "We only had eight guys in practice," Shaw said Tuesday - and a bigger one for later. It's tough to trade an injured player. It's also tough to plan future lineups when you don't know who will be healthy, and when.
"I like the versatility of the roster and the flexibility of (a full) roster," Shaw said. "It's just a matter of getting them healthy and ready to play."
Yes, the Nuggets coach is a bait fisherman. We won't hold it against him; this is, after all, only his 10th month as a Colorado resident.
"I'm not into fly fishing," he told me.
Not yet, I replied.
"I actually thought about today - since the sun is out - maybe trying to sneak over to Cherry Creek Reservoir for a couple hours and wet the line a little bit," Shaw said.
Now he's catching on. Rebuilding the Nuggets will demand a refreshed soul. When this lost season is over, they should hang a sign on Shaw's office door: