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Gazette Premium Content Klee: Nuggets in a world of change

photo - Rocky the mascot's team, the Denver Nuggets, are surfing in a new direction under new coach Brian Shaw.. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) + caption
Rocky the mascot's team, the Denver Nuggets, are surfing in a new direction under new coach Brian Shaw.. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
By Paul Klee Updated: November 6, 2013 at 5:33 am

DENVER - Inside Pepsi Center, there's a basketball truth as old as the building.

Nobody puts Rocky in a corner. You can't do it, so don't try it.

The mountain lion has a mountain of mischief up his mane.

So how's this for omens: Prior to the Nuggets home opener last week, while rappelling from the rafters, Rocky passed out. The Super Mascot went limp.

Details are sketchy. But Rocky did not return to the game and was listed as day-to-day. He returned Tuesday as the Nuggets hosted the Spurs.

Times at Pepsi Center are changing. Rocky no longer is irrepressible.

And the Nuggets are entering a program overhaul.

This is not a tweaking. This is not an adjustment here, a tuneup there. This is a change in philosophy on offense, in philosophy on defense, in personnel, in the front office and, presumably, a change to safety precautions for the mascot.

This is a program overhaul, and the Nuggets better be in it for the long haul:

This roster, in this new system, won't win 35 games.

"I'm a patient guy, except when it comes to a lack of passion or energy," coach Brian Shaw said in a Pepsi Center hallway before tipoff Tuesday.

Here's hoping he's as patient as a fisherman in a bathtub. These are not signs of a franchise building to win now, but a franchise hoping it pays off later.

I have high hopes for Shaw. As the bearer of five NBA championship rings, he knows what style of basketball wins in the playoffs. That's why the Nuggets hired him. When the Nuggets committed to major change, it was bound to take time.

Here's the situation: the new system, with a belief in solid defense and dependable offense in the half court, demands a type of player who excels in those areas.

This Nuggets roster was born to run, jump and dunk.

This new system needs players to dribble, pass and shoot.

More change must be coming.

When the Nuggets went all-in on major change, they went all the way in. They watched their general manager leave for the Raptors. They fired their coach.

They scrapped a system that flourished in the regular season but failed in the postseason too often for their liking. They sought a new one built for postseason success.

The change will come at the expense of wins in the regular season. This one, at the least.

Over the preseason and three games into the regular season, I've seen a new coach simply trying to figure out what he's working with.

Nine minutes into Tuesday's game, Shaw had used 10 players. In the starting frontcourt he combined JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, a pairing George Karl used as often as he called timeouts. He started Jordan Hamilton, who didn't even play in the first two games.

All the moving and shaking has looked more like a tryout than a promotion: Who is valuable to the new Nuggets and who is valuable as trade bait?

This isn't a criticism; it's pointing out a coach learning which players can work in a system that looks nothing like the old system. This is experimenting.

The Nuggets will be better when Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler return from injury. Those are valuable pieces in a program overhaul.

Rocky was back in action Tuesday, somersaulting and kissing babies. The Super Mascot is again a constant.

Just about everything else? It's being overhauled.

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Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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