Northwest Notes: Jokic, Wolves, Simmons, Gay, McCollum

With Jamal Murray recovering from an ACL tear and Michael Porter Jr. off to a slow start, the Nuggets are leaning more than ever this season on reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. That’s a problem, in the view of head coach Michael Malone, who says he’d like the team to reduce its reliance on Jokic, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“I told our guys just now, Nikola’s not a good player, (he’s) a great player,” Malone said after a Nuggets loss to Memphis on Wednesday. “But every time he comes out, everything just falls apart. It’s every night. I went to him in the fourth quarter, I called his name, and he looked at me, kind of like, ‘Already?’ And I feel for him. … Nikola’s gonna be worn down by Christmas at this rate.”

The numbers back up Malone’s assertion that “everything just falls apart” when Jokic is out of the game. The Nuggets have +14.5 net rating in Jokic’s 248 minutes so far this season, compared to an abysmal -21.4 net rating in the 136 minutes he hasn’t played. Denver has always played better with Jokic on the court, but the team will need to find a way to at least tread water while he’s resting.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • On a recent episode of his The Scoop podcast, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North stated that it has been a little while since Timberwolves head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta talked to the Sixers about Ben Simmons. “About three-and-a-half, four weeks ago, he did plant the seed with the Philadelphia front office that, ‘Yeah, I’m interested in Ben Simmons,'” Wolfson said, per HoopsHype. “But I’m now told he hasn’t had any dialogue about Ben Simmons with Philadelphia for a couple weeks.”
  • The Jazz are off to an impressive 6-1 start this season, but it’s becoming clear that Rudy Gay will fill a “substantial need” on the roster once he’s ready to return from his offseason heel surgery, contends Tony Jones of The Athletic. Gay has the size and athleticism necessary to match up with bigger forwards on defense, and can create his own shot in high-pressure situations on offense, Jones writes.
  • Casey Holdahl of takes a look at CJ McCollum‘s mindset after an offseason in which the standout Trail Blazers guard was the subject of much trade speculation.
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