DENVER – Two of the three former Nuggets who came to the Timberwolves before the trade deadline had very different reactions to being back in Denver.
Juancho Hernangomez professed how grateful he was to the Nuggets organization and reminisced about his time with the team.
“I grew up here,” Hernangomez said. “I am who I am because of Denver, because of the organization, all the teammates, all the coaches. The way it all happened, like really fast, I was sad because I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to anybody and say bye the way I wanted to say.”
Malik Beasley, on the other hand, wasn’t as disappointed to leave. When asked if he was more sad to leave Denver or excited for the opportunity to play in Minnesota, Beasley said the latter. He said there wouldn’t be much nostalgia for him entering the Pepsi Center on Sunday.
“Just be ready to play,” Beasley said. “Ready to battle no matter what team it is.”
For Beasley, leaving Denver represents a great opportunity in his career. He was one of the odd men out of the Nuggets’ rotation this season and has looked rejuvenated with the Wolves. He has averaged 23.3 points per game in four games with the Wolves entering Sunday. He averaged 7.9 with the Nuggets.
“The opportunity for me to score is different, but I’m not worried about getting points,” Beasley said. “I’m worried about getting wins for my team, and if I have to score more then that’s what I have to do. Other than that, I’m not looking to score every night. I’m looking to make the right plays for my teammates.”
Beasley did say he looked forward to seeing his old teammates, as did Hernangomez, who said it has been a “hard time” for him not being on the same team with Nikola Jokic.
“This was my home,” Hernangomez said. “I think when the players get out of their comfort zone they work harder and they fight for a chance. I know I was really happy here, but I think this chance, this opportunity for me as a player is the best for me.”
Hernangomez relayed a story that before the deadline coach Mike Malone said he was considering benching Hernangomez so as not to risk him getting hurt and ruin his trade value. Hernangomez pushed to play, and the Nuggets won in what Hernangomez knew would likely be his final game at Pepsi Center.
“It was for me like the great goodbye,” Hernangomez said. “I already knew the trade was going to be soon, but I didn’t know how soon. I knew it was my last game at Pepsi Center so I just enjoyed it and we got the win and we played good. That was the best way to say goodbye.”
The third Nuggets player the Wolves acquired, Jarred Vanderbilt, was on assignment with Iowa.
On the flip side, the Wolves got to see some familiar faces in Noah Vonleh and Keita Bates-Diop, whom they dealt as a part of the four-team trade that brought Beasley and Hernangomez to Minnesota.
“When I was an assistant [Keita] was one of the guys I worked closely with in development and film work,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “I love that relationship that was built. Him as a player, I’ve always loved what he brings to a group and how he’s a selfless player, and also Noah, being around him for a shorter period, I’ll always use him as an example of a consummate professional and always stays ready.”
Crabbe a late scratch
Forward Allen Crabbe did not play Sunday and was not with the team after he left for personal reasons, the Wolves said. Crabbe initially made the trip with the Wolves. Crabbe’s absence meant the Wolves were down to nine players for the game.