Former Kansas Jayhawk Christian Braun meets Denver media: ‘I want to show what I’m good at’

·5 min read
John Minchillo/AP

Christian Braun’s introductory news conference with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets was conducted on Monday afternoon in Denver, several hours after the city’s NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche, wrapped up a 4-2 Stanley Cup Final win over two-time defending champion Tampa Bay on Sunday in Florida.

“I became an Avs fan in like two days or so,” former University of Kansas guard Braun, the 21st overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, said, obviously endearing himself to Denver sports fans, giddy over the Avs winning their first Cup in 21 years.

“I didn’t know too much about hockey, but obviously they take a lot of pride in winning here with their sports teams,” added the 6-foot-7 Blue Valley Northwest graduate. He was joined at Monday’s media session by Nuggets’ first round pick (30th overall) Peyton Watson of UCLA and second-round selection Ismael Kamagate of Paris Basketball in France.

“I’m excited to be in a city that takes pride in winning. I’ve heard a lot of great things (about Denver). I’m just excited to get around the city, see things, go eat at different places, things like that,” Braun added.

Braun — a starter on KU’s 2022 NCAA title team — now is part of an NBA team with championship aspirations.

The Nuggets, who are led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, went 48-34 in the 2021-22 regular season before losing to Golden State in the first round of the playoffs. The Warriors went on to win it all.

“They are in a spot where they are ready to win now,” Braun said of the Nuggets. “We’ve got a two-time MVP. We’ve got a lot of really good pieces around him in Denver. I’m excited we’re in a spot we can compete for a championship right away.”

Braun averaged 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game last season for the NCAA champion Jayhawks. Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists for the Nuggets.

“He makes everybody on the court look better than they are — every time you step on the court,” Braun said of Jokic. “He’s two-time MVP for a reason. He’s one of the best players in the league. I’m excited to get on the court with a guy like that. Obviously we’re going to get to learn a lot from him. Obviously he’s really knowlegeable about the game. He’s a guy that affects every part of the game, controls every part of the game, It’s going to be awesome to learn from a guy like that.

“There are a lot of pieces on this team we’re going to get to learn from. I’m just excited to get out there and compete, win, soak up everything I can,” Braun stated.

Braun — he joins former Mokan Basketball AAU teammate Michael Porter Jr. as a member of the Nuggets — will make his first appearance in a Denver jersey in the Las Vegas Summer League July 8-15 in Nevada. The Nuggets will meet former KU forward David McCormack’s Minnesota Timberwolves at 8 p.m. Central time July 8 at Cox Pavilion in Vegas. It’ll be shown on NBA TV.

“I want to show what I’m good at. I want to highlight those things I’m good at and not show what I’m not good at,” Braun said of summer league with a smile. “Just go out there and win, compete every possession and get better with each experience.”

He said he’s willing to come off the bench or even spend time in the G League in 2022-23 if that’s what it takes to contribute to the team early-on.

“It’s all a part of the process,” the 21-year-old Braun said. “You can’t skip those things, You’ve just got to get better every day, just find a way to impact winning on whatever level that is, whether it’s on the bench, whether it’s in practice you’ve got to get better every day. You need to find a way to make your mark on the Denver Nuggets. Once you do those things obviously the team goes in the right direction.””

He said he’s looking forward to getting to know his new teammates. That includes former UCLA wing Watson, who turned pro after his freshman season with the Bruins.

“I met him first time at a Memphis (Grizzlies predraft) workout. It was a super competitive workout,” Braun said. “As far as relationships go within the Nuggets I know the Porter family a little bit, just playing AAU ball in the same organization. So that’s as far as that goes.”

Braun said he saw former University of Missouri player Porter working out when Braun arrived for Monday’s news conference.

“I’ve not talked to any teammates. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches. Coaches and front office people have shown a lot of support, said that they believe in you. That’s been awesome,” Braun said.

Nuggets coach J.B. Bickerstaff recently said of Braun: “I thought he could be a weapon. He has the ability to put the ball in the basket and it’s not the ability to just stand in a spot and make a shot. When we watched him play, it was his ability to move and catch and shoot off of screens, off handoffs, where he knew how to make himself difficult to guard.”

Bickerstaff said Braun’s attempt to earn a spot in the rotation begins soon in Las Vegas.

“It’s easy to watch when a guy is at Kansas how they fit there. You’ve got to get them in front of you to figure exactly how he fits here,” Bickerstaff said. “When we get all the guys back in town you will see the relationships, the chemistry. We’ll give everyone a fair opportunity at it. You are going to have to earn your opportunities. That opportunity will be what’s best for the whole. It’s a long season. Everybody will get a chance, then it’s a matter of what you do with it.”

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