Will Barton approaches 10th NBA season with renewed sense of excitement
In five days, the Denver Nuggets will open their training camp for the 2021-22 season.
Although many are still recovering from the condensed nature of the 2020-21 campaign following the unusual schedule to end the 2019-20 season, Will Barton simply can’t wait to get back to hooping.
After fighting injuries in each of the last two seasons as Denver was in the playoffs, Barton feels refreshed physically and mentally after having an offseason to truly work on his game and study his craft.
“This is the best I’ve felt going into a season in two years,” Barton told the media Thursday. “So, I feel like I'm rejuvenated really. I got to really work on my game this offseason, I didn't get to do that last year.”
Barton revealed that outside of the gym, he spent a lot of time watching film of his game and on other opponents to stay engaged in all aspects of preparation. Last offseason, Barton did take a step back from the game he loves to prioritize his rehab from various injuries and protect his mental health.
“Last summer I took my mind off (basketball) a little bit just because I didn't want to get depressed because I wasn't able to train,” Barton explained. “It was more rehab for me.”
The upcoming 2021-22 season marks a milestone for the 30-year-old, as Barton will be taking the floor for his 10th season in the NBA.
“It’s definitely a milestone,” Barton said. “Anytime you can do a decade in anything, it’s special and I think it speaks to your consistency, perseverance, and things of that nature. I’m definitely proud of myself for that.”
Barton enters this milestone season as the longest-tenured Nugget and a key cog in Denver’s machine as a versatile guard capable of playing both on-and-off the ball. Given how Denver has fallen short of a trip to the NBA Finals in each of the past two seasons, Barton understands the opportunity that is in front of him and his teammates.
“I think pretty much everyone feels like it's unfinished business,” Barton said. “We really feel that we have the pieces in place to be a championship team.”
Continuity will be key for Barton and the Nuggets, who are returning the majority of their 2020-21 team for the upcoming campaign. As if Barton needed any more reason for excitement, the combination of that continuity paired with championship-level talent has the veteran guard ready to hit the ground running next week in training camp.
“I'm so excited man. I haven't been this excited in a while just to be feeling good, knowing I put the work in, knowing I got a lot of work in and got better,” The former second-round pick said. “We have a good team. Like I said, we have a lot of good guys and a lot of good talent. We like to be around each other.”
A new addition to the locker room is rookie Bones Hyland, who has a preexisting relationship with Barton dating back to when Hyland came to Barton’s basketball camp back when he was in high school.
“We always had a connection and to know his story and the adversity he has been through; It is pretty exciting to see him just in the NBA period,” Barton explained. Given Barton’s level of experience in the league and his time spent in Denver, it’d be hard to ask for a better mentor for Hyland as he begins his rookie campaign.
Barton revealed that he has been in contact with Hyland on a daily basis, giving the 21-year-old advice and answering any questions he has about life in the NBA. While it will take some time for the rookie to get his feet wet and settle in, it hasn’t taken any time for Hyland to inject some fresh energy into the Nuggets locker room.
“And the good thing about Bones is he just loves to play,” said Barton. “It’s like a breath of fresh air to see someone young and energetic and just looking forward to their career and just wants to play every day and he just brings that energy around.”
Hyland may not have a defined role in the rotation throughout his rookie season, but it’s safe to say that he will learn the ropes quickly as a result of being around Barton, who Hyland described as a “big brother” earlier in the week when speaking to the media.
For Barton, he certainly appears to appreciate the opportunity to be a mentor as he enters his 10th season in the league and assumes an even larger leadership role on this Nuggets squad. But at the end of the day, the Baltimore, MD native is simply looking forward to being out on the court next week and kicking off another season doing what he loves on Oct. 20th.
“Looking forward to training camp, looking forward to preseason, looking forward to getting this thing started,” Barton said Thursday. “(I’m) just chomping at the bit to get back and play.”