Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said the hardest part wasn’t that Denver didn’t know who it’d be facing in Thursday’s Game 1.

Like Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part.

It’s been a week since the Nuggets clinched their spot in the NBA Finals and appeared on a collision course with the Miami Heat, who took a 3-0 lead in Eastern Conference Finals. But Boston, intent on making history as the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in NBA history, stormed back to force Monday’s take-all Game 7.

Regardless of who wins, the Nuggets will finally, mercifully, get an answer.

“I know I speak for everybody in that locker room, we just can’t wait for (Monday’s) game to be over, to finally have some clarity, so when we wake up (Tuesday) morning we know who we’re playing, we know who we’re preparing for and we can kind of turn the page and really focus in on that,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

Since punching their first-ever ticket to the NBA Finals, the Nuggets have focused on themselves. In the subsequent practices, Malone has hammered conditioning and intentionality, not wanting to lose fitness or focus despite not knowing an opponent.

That approach changed on Monday morning.

“We started working on things that both Miami and Boston (do), kind of things that we need to be prepared for, both offensively and defensively,” Malone said.

Malone said he watched Saturday night’s epic Game 6 as both a coach and fan. And what did he think of Derrick White’s dramatic game-winning tip?

“Nobody wants to hear my coaching takeaways,” Malone joked on Monday morning. “… But I watch it as a fan of the game. I watch it as a coach getting prepared to play Game 1 against one of those two teams. But I allow my wife to come down once in a while to check on me.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said the hardest part wasn’t that Denver didn’t know who it’d be facing in Thursday’s Game 1.

“It’s been difficult for us as far as how long we have to wait to play, just being anxious and being ready,” he said. “That’s the most difficult part.”

A champion with the Lakers in the bubble, Caldwell-Pope sounded pleasantly surprised at his team’s engagement throughout practices despite the limbo.

“I’m surprised on our focus,” he said. “Our focus is tremendous.”

Caldwell-Pope has been one of the unsung heroes of this season for the Nuggets. His perimeter defense has given the Nuggets an option against opponents’ elite guards, and his 3-point shooting has spaced the floor for Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to work. Above all, it’s his professionalism that’s helped galvanize a group trying to get where Caldwell-Pope has already been.

With Washington this past summer, Caldwell-Pope said he heard the rumors of a trade but didn’t know whether to believe them until he got in touch with his agent and NBA power broker Rich Paul.

“My agent did his job,” Caldwell-Pope said. “He made it happen.”

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The reason Caldwell-Pope was beaming on Monday morning while reflecting on the trade was that it afforded him a chance to compete for another title, which wouldn’t have been the case had he remained in Washington.

“It was a breath of fresh air,” he said. “I got a chance to compete for a championship again. Just knowing this team from playing them, I knew what we had and what I was coming into.”

The veteran shooting guard doesn’t remember exactly what he said to Nuggets GM Calvin Booth after the trade, but he’s got a distinct reaction when he sees him now.

“I don’t remember the conversation between us, but every time I see him, though, I do thank him,” he said. “ … I’m happy I’m here and being in the position to win another championship.”

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