ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Confetti sprinkled throughout Ball Arena late Monday night. Jamal Murray collapsed, tears streaming down his checks. Nikola Jokic hugged his family with the type of unbridled joy that cannot be replicated in movies.
The Denver Nuggets could live in this snapshot forever. Their first NBA title in 47 years left them walking into the state's long-awaited open arms.
Broncos coach Sean Payton watched the Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat and celebration play out courtside. He spent the evening quizzing Nuggets legend David Thompson before pausing to appreciate the accomplishment.
Payton has scaled this mountaintop, winning a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. No NFL coach has guided an AFC and NFC team to the crown, and what the 59-year-old witnessed Monday only left him more motivated to reach the zenith again.
"It’s tremendous for the city. There’s nothing like it. To have the confetti fall on those guys for what they achieved is special. We always use this term that they will walk together forever," Payton said, explaining the feeling.
"When it’s happened once, you can’t wait to show someone you are so excited. It's like a great restaurant or getting a great Christmas gift. It’s unbelievable. You are addicted to it. Last night being in that moment and watching them enjoy it, there’s nothing like it. It’s borderline obsessed."
Payton coaches with an eye toward a title. He lamented penalties at Thursday's veteran minicamp practice, which was moved indoors because of the soggy weather forecast. His attention detail remains tangible. He did not return to coaching to make history — only Bill Parcells and Mike Homlgren have led teams from both conferences to a Super Bowl — but he certainly came back to win.
Linebacker Alex Singleton notices it every day, echoing teammates about Payton's impact. What unfurled at Ball Arena serves to drive home the importance of the challenge ahead.
"Winning is everything. You are going to get coached hard. That's the biggest thing. And that's what you want," said Singleton, who received the security of his first two-year contract in his eighth season in the league.
"I think last night kind of speaks for itself for what you want in this city. So, it was pretty easy for us to come in here today and be motivated. Let's not do what we did last year and do that. I think that helps (this) week and moving forward. I hope it's something we all remember."
Patrick on comeback trail
Receiver Tim Patrick tore the ACL in his right knee on August 2, ending his season and cratering, to some degree, the passing game. His fire and production were deeply missed. He continues to make steady progress in his recovery, saying the next step is "seeing the whole field," not just his assignment.
"What did I miss (about not playing)? Doing the legal hitting that you can't do anywhere but on the field," Patrick said with a smile. "And talking trash. I can't really do that to my girl and baby. They are soft."
Patrick received the support of teammates during his journey back, including K.J. Hamler. Hamler tore his ACL for the second time the previous season, sending him to a dark place. Patrick and Hamler have grown so close that Hamler is now living with the Patrick family.
"I want him to have a consistent routine," said Patrick of Hamler, who calls Patrick's mancave home.
Frank Clark's signing became official. The two-time Pro Bowler will play outside linebacker, Payton said. With only two days of veteran minicamp left, Clark will join the team for training camp. He was signed, in part, because Baron Browning underwent recent knee surgery that will force him to begin the season on the PUP list, causing him to miss games. To make room for Clark, the Broncos cut former CSU-Pueblo receiver Nick Williams.
Caden Sterns looks noticeably bigger and more muscular this offseason. It appears Sterns, who missed most of last year with a hip injury, will be given a shot to win the strong safety job even with the return of Kareem Jackson.
Receiver Brandon Johnson continues to turn heads this offseason. He faces competition to make the team, but he has clearly built off his encouraging finish.
Payton honored late Ring of Famer Jim Turner on Thursday by having kickers Elliott Fry and Randy Bullock, who is trying out for the job, kick straight-on 9-yard field goals, Turner style. It was a nice touch, and not lost on the players following Turner's passing on Monday.