DENVER — There's excitement surrounding the Denver Nuggets going into the 2019-20 season.

"I think we’re excited to get going. I have to constantly remind our guys that a lot is being expected of us," head coach Michael Malone said. "We didn’t listen to it much when they didn’t give us a chance. And we’re not going to listen to it now."

Malone and the Nuggets are trying to block out the noise. For the first time in decade, they are legitimate title contenders with a bulls-eye on their backs.

"We have solidified ourselves as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. So every night is going to be a hard-fought game," added point guard Monte Morris.

Denver breezed through preseason, but it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Coach (Malone) called out Thursday’s defensive effort. It was the kind of performance that won’t cut it on opening night.

"For me the preseason is not about being 4-0 or 0-4, its about creating good habits. And I thought in that game, it was the only game in the preseason, where I didn’t think we were creating the proper habits that we will need," Malone said.

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Malone’s bottom-line? This team has the talent to do big things, but to get there they’ve got to buy in on both ends of the court.

"Last year we made a jump because we took our defense into the Top-10 (rankings). And if we’re serious about doing the things we talk about we have to live it every day. I don’t want to talk about it, I want to be about it," exclaimed Malone.

Forward Nikola Jokic added: "If you’re not playing good you’re going to be out. You’re going to be on the bench. It’s a simple thing."

How’s that for motivation?

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