Bruce Brown

Northwest Notes: Conley, Gay, Murray, Brown

The Jazz‘s five-game losing streak shows how much they miss point guard Mike Conley, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. He’s the only natural point guard on the team and Utah misses his experience and calming presence, particularly in crunch time.

Conley has been out since Nov. 19 due to a knee injury. The Jazz guard in the second year of a three-year contract, though next season’s salary of $24.36MM is only partially guaranteed.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Speaking of Conley, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune passed along an injury update on the point guard (Twitter link). He has progressed to running and has incorporated on-court movements with shooting. He will continue daily rehab and treatment. Another Jazz veteran, forward Rudy Gay, has progressed to on-court ballhandling and shooting, and has participated in parts of practice. He’s been out since Nov. 13 due to a finger sprain on his left hand.
  • On Monday, Jamal Murray looked more like the player he was before suffering a serious knee injury that sidelined him last season. Murray scored 31 points and Nuggets coach Michael Malone says his point guard is capable of even bigger performances, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “I think he’s still got another level,” Malone said.
  • Nuggets swingman Bruce Brown says he’s shown another element to his game this season, Singer tweets. “I’m talking to everyone who thought I couldn’t play a guard. That’s to a lot of GMs in the NBA,” Brown said. Brown, previously with the Nets, is in the first year of two-year contract and holds a $6.8MM option for next season. He has seen some action at the point this season.

Nuggets Notes: Porter, Brown, Bench

Michael Porter Jr. wasn’t able to practice Sunday because of lingering pain from a left heel contusion and it sounds like he’ll miss Monday’s game against the Rockets, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Porter hasn’t played since Nov. 22, but Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the injury occurred before then and called it “something that’s kind of been building.”

“Right now it’s just real painful for Michael, so he’ll come back and he’ll play when he feels like he’s able to go out there and do his job effectively,” Malone said.

Porter has managed to play in 16 of Denver’s first 19 games after being limited to nine games last season with a back injury. Bruce Brown has filled the opening in the starting lineup over the past week, which has boosted the team’s defense. Singer notes that Jeff Green would have been considered to replace Porter as a starter, but he’s been dealing with a knee contusion and won’t be available for tonight’s game either.

There’s more from Denver:

  • Brown may be playing too well for the Nuggets to be able to re-sign him after the season, Singer states in a mailbag column. If Brown turns down his $6.8MM player option for 2023/24, Denver would only have his Non-Bird rights and would be limited to offering him a 120% raise in the first year of a new contract, which would be about $7.75MM. Singer suggests that Brown might be able to double his current salary of $6.479MM in free agency.
  • The reserve unit has been an issue for the first quarter of the season as the Nuggets’ bench has the third worst plus-minus rating of any group in the league, Singer adds. Brown and Bones Hyland have regular roles and Singer believes Green’s spot is secure because of his veteran status, but Malone has been juggling the other players to try to find an effective combination. Neither Davon Reed or Christian Braun has seized the backup small forward role, and Malone has recently been using Zeke Nnaji and Vlatko Cancar ahead of DeAndre Jordan. Singer speculates that Nnaji or Cancar could eventually be dealt for another guard.
  • Draft-and-stash player Ismael Kamagate is interested in joining the Nuggets next season, as we relayed on Sunday. The 21-year-old center was traded twice after being selected with the 46th pick in this year’s draft, and he said Denver has been sending representatives to watch him play.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Prince, Brown, Wiggins

Rudy Gobert understood that the Timberwolves‘ adjustment wouldn’t be easy after shaking up their roster to acquire him from Utah, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Not only did Minnesota give up five players in the deal, the team committed to an entirely different style of play with Gobert clogging the middle and forming a modern-day Twin Towers alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.

Nineteen games into the season, Gobert’s concerns have been proven correct. The Wolves are a game above .500, but they’ve had some ugly losses along the way, including Friday’s at Charlotte, where it’s seemed like the pieces don’t really fit together.

“Each bad game, they’re going to be ready to talk. That’s great. We love it,” Gobert said before the season began. “That’s part of the process. Nothing great comes easy. If it was going to happen in one game, that wouldn’t be worth having. We gotta work hard and work every night to get better.”

After a 5-8 start, Minnesota had strung together five straight wins before Friday. But perimeter defenders have been relying too much on Gobert to bail them out after their man drives by, Krawczynski observes, and the chemistry between Gobert and D’Angelo Russell on the pick-and-roll remains a work in progress.

“Sometimes, you know, passes are tough. Sometimes I fumble it,” Gobert said. “Most of the time, I get it and something good happens. As long as we can keep that trust and I can try to put myself in the right spots for him to find me and whether it’s that pocket pass or that lob, any pass actually, just trusting me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince suffered a right shoulder subluxation during Wednesday’s game and could miss a week or two, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Coach Chris Finch said Jordan McLaughlin is “more in the day-to-day category” with a left calf injury.
  • Bruce Brown continues to look like a major free agency bargain for the Nuggets, Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes. Brown posted his first career triple-double Wednesday to help Denver pull out a win despite the absence of four rotation players. “Some guys are in the foxhole with you, some guys, like they’ve got one foot in, one foot out,” Malone said. “Bruce is, he’s all the way in.”
  • Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins has the unusual distinction of five starts and five DNP-CDs already this season, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Coach Mark Daigneault explained that it’s a result of having so many young players to develop.

Nuggets Notes: Green, Jordan, Malone, Brown

Nuggets forward Jeff Green made a concerted push to convince longtime friend DeAndre Jordan to join him in Denver as a free agent this summer. Mike Singer of The Denver Post examines the frontcourt reserves’ friendship and breaks down Green’s pitch.

“I said, ‘Just come be with your bestie,’ and it worked,” Green told Singer, who writes that the conversation took place over a FaceTime chat. “At this point of our careers, it’s all about winning,” Green said.

The duo had previously linked up as members of the Clippers and Nets. Their families vacation together, per Singer.

“Two guys who really just enjoy life, that like to have a good time, we have a mutual respect for one another as far as the whole journey of what it takes to be an NBA player,” Green said. “He’s a gentle giant, very soft. Tries to have a hard exterior, but he’s very soft.”

Across his 10 games with the Nuggets as the primary reserve behind two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic, Jordan is averaging 5.6 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 13.1 MPG. Green, who has been with Denver since the 2021/22 season, is averaging 7.9 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 19.9 MPG.

There’s more out of Denver:

  • Eighth-year Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has all the attributes of a championship-caliber leader, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Malone has found a way to balance an intense and demanding side with kindness and respect for his players, along with clever strategizing and some creative flexibility when it comes to maximizing the talent on his team’s roster. Over the years, Kiszla adds, that roster has come to reflect the dogged personality of its head coach to an extent.
  • Versatile Nuggets backup guard/forward Bruce Brown is acting as Denver’s reserve point guard with Bones Hyland in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, writes Singer in a separate article. “When you’re manning that second unit … you also gotta use your voice and get us organized to make sure all five guys are operating as one,” Malone said. Added Brown: “I think with our second unit, we just gotta run, we gotta push the ball, but we gotta get stops.”
  • In a new piece this morning, Luke Adams examines the biggest current trade exceptions in the league. The Nuggets possess one of them, an exception worth $9,125,000 that will expire if it’s not used by July 6, 2023.

Nuggets Notes: Porter, Brown, Hyland, Green

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. wasn’t part of the Nuggets‘ crunch-time lineup during Monday’s win over San Antonio, playing just 11 seconds in the final eight minutes of the game, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). However, after Denver pulled out a 115-109 win, Porter was focused on celebrating his teammates rather than bemoaning his lack of fourth-quarter playing time.

“Even if I’m not on the floor at the end of the game, we got a lot of good players, so I’m not gonna be selfish. Even though I want to be on the floor, it’s whatever coach thinks gives us the best chance to win. I would’ve rather been sitting on the bench and cheering my teammates on and win the game, than me be in the game and we lose,” Porter said, before adding with a smile: “Even though I don’t think we would’ve lost.”

Porter scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting on Monday and is on a maximum-salary contract, so he could have griped about being benched down the stretch. But with the Nuggets opting for defense over offense in the fourth quarter, head coach Michael Malone was pleased with how Porter handled the decision.

“That’s a big part of our culture,” Malone said. “Being selfless. Get over yourself, it’s not about you. It’s about the team. … Our players understand, you gotta sacrifice. If you want to be a great team, we all gotta check our egos at the door.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post makes the case that the Nuggets should move Bruce Brown into their starting five in place of Porter, noting that Brown has developed chemistry with Nikola Jokic and would improve the group defensively. Porter, meanwhile, would get a chance to be the go-to scoring option on the second unit, according to Kiszla, who argues that the young forward has the potential to be “the best sixth man on the planet.”
  • Porter already makes the most sense as the starter to stagger with the second unit, according to Singer of The Denver Post, who observes that the forward meshes well with reserve guard Bones Hyland, with the two players sharing offensive responsibilities and Porter’s reliable outside shooting giving Hyland more room to attack defenses off the dribble.
  • After exercising his player option this past summer to remain in Denver, forward Jeff Green has emerged as a respected veteran voice in the locker room, Singer writes for The Denver Post. “I speak up with what I see,” Green said. “I make sure it’s heard, and guys take it how they want to take it.”

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, Timberwolves, Brown, Jokic

Timberwolves power forward Jaden McDaniels gets his offense by being in the right space in the right time. A high-scoring night for McDaniels is usually indicative of good ball movement from his Minnesota teammates, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“He’s a really good cutter,” head coach Chris Finch said. “Our offense relies on cutting a lot, and a lot of guys don’t have a great feel for that or are reluctant to cut, because they’re way more ball-dominant, but he’s such a good cutter, and the ball has to be moving in different spots that allows those cuts to open up to be there… He’s going to be the beneficiary of good offense, good flow.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves are emphasizing a motion-heavy offense this season, per Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. All-Star center Rudy Gobert is excited to be sharing the floor, and the rock, with fellow All-Star teammate Karl-Anthony Towns. “I think this is where we can really punish teams,” Gobert said of Towns. “It’s really important that we keep working on it. The fact that he can pass and he’s willing to pass has made him even more of a threat.” 
  • New Nuggets shooting guard Bruce Brown has a fan in head coach Michael Malone, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). “I’m so thankful that we were able to sign Bruce Brown in free agency,” Malone told reporters after Wednesday’s win.
  • Sean Keeler of The Denver Post writes that Brown, known primarily as an unorthodox roll man and defender during his time with the Nets, is looking more multifaceted in Denver, thanks to a solid shooting start. “[His] shooting, in Brooklyn, he really wasn’t known for it because of the way he had to play,” Nuggets power forward Jeff Green said. “He had to sacrifice a lot (there). So I think now, people are going have to respect what he can bring to the table.” The 6’5″ vet did connect on 40.4% of his three-pointers during his 2021/22 season with Brooklyn, albeit on a fairly low-volume 1.3 attempts a night. Thus far with Denver, Brown is shooting 50% on his 3.2 looks from long range.
  • Though Nuggets All-NBA center Nikola Jokic is not an elite rim protector, his court sense on defense allows him to remain underrated on that side of the floor, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post in a new mailbag. Singer also discusses the team’s apparent plan to employ a switch-heavy defense for every position beyond Jokic, the three-point shooting prowess of Michael Porter Jr., and Denver’s road-heavy early season schedule.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, McDaniels, Azubuike, Sharpe

After replacing his old boss Tim Connelly this offseason, new Nuggets head of basketball operations Calvin Booth had a busy summer, trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith, signing Bruce Brown and DeAndre Jordan in free agency, and using first-round picks on Christian Braun and Peyton Watson.

Speaking to Mark Medina of NBA.com, Booth said the Nuggets’ offseason goals were to upgrade their defense, get more athletic, and add more two-way talents. He feels the team accomplished those goals.

“With KCP, we have one of the best 3-and-D guys in the league, someone with championship experience and a proven vet,” Booth said. “Bruce was one of the most underrated guys in the league last season. We’re finding that out every day in the game with how sophisticated of a game he has.

“Christian and Peyton will eventually address those needs. We valued DeAndre’s vet leadership and the way he communicates. He’s one of the best rebounders of his generation, and he can still do that. Ish Smith has been a great addition as well and brings different levels of speed and pace to the game.”

In his Q&A with Medina, Booth also discussed several other Nuggets-related topics, including Nikola Jokic‘s chances of winning a third consecutive MVP award, Jamal Murray‘s return from an ACL tear, and Booth’s own contract extension with the franchise.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Even though John Hollinger of The Athletic believes the Nuggets have a chance to come out of the West this season, he thinks there are still too many question marks related to the team’s depth and returning stars to actually forecast such a scenario. In his preview of Denver’s season, Hollinger projects a 50-32 record and a fourth-place finish in the West.
  • Jaden McDaniels will be the Timberwolves‘ starting small forward to open the 2022/23 season, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. McDaniels, whom the team worked hard to keep out of the Rudy Gobert trade, will fill out a star-studded lineup that features Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns up front, with Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt.
  • Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, who underwent surgery on his right foot and ankle in March, was cleared to practice in full on Thursday for the first time in seven months, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I was excited about it,” Azubuike said. “We did some exercises in the morning before practice, and that felt good. Then, me going out there, getting a rep and you know, I’m just excited. It really felt good.” It remains to be seen if the former first-round pick will earn a spot on Utah’s regular season roster, since the team has 18 players on standard contracts and will need to make cuts by Monday.
  • Trail Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe has signed with agent Mike George of One Legacy Sports for representation, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Northwest Notes: Brown, Gay, Lillard, Trail Blazers

New Nuggets addition Bruce Brown seems to be the exact defensive puzzle piece the team had been missing, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber-exclusive link).

“When I realized that Bruce was still available (as a free agent), that was, ‘Hey man, this is a guy that we need,’” head coach Michael Malone said, adding that he communicated that to team GM Calvin Booth during the offseason. “You might score on him, but he’s not gonna back down.”

The 26-year-old inked a two-year, $13MM deal with the Nuggets this summer.

Singer notes that the 6’4″ Brown possesses a versatility that allows him to cover opposing positions ranging from point guards to power forwards, and can function in a variety of ways on offense as well. Malone has been making a concerted effort to play Brown at the point to see what he can do as a play-maker.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz face some tough choices when it comes to how they want to use veteran power forward Rudy Gay this season, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. As Todd outlines, the team could look to showcase the 36-year-old either to boost his trade value or to use him as a mentor to their rebuilding roster, or the club could opt to waive the remaining two years and $12.7MM remaining on his current contract.
  • Though Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard could have demanded a trade out of town, he decided instead to stick around as the team re-tools. Logan Murdock of The Ringer details how Lillard questioned the team’s direction following a 2021 first-round playoff exit. “It just had reached the point where I was like, ‘Is what I want the same as what the organization wants?’” Lillard told Murdock. “Do we actually want to win, or is it a situation where, ‘We’re going to be good enough, we know Dame is going to put his best foot forward and it’s going to be entertaining, we’re going to be competitive, we’re going to have a chance in the playoffs.’”
  • Following an underwhelming 1-4 preseason finish, which included three blowout defeats, the Trail Blazers and second-year head coach Chauncey Billups could have a rough road reaching even a .500 record, let alone a postseason return, opines Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (subscriber-exclusive link).

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Edwards, Holmgren

Veterans Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, Ish Smith and Bruce Brown are providing the Nuggets with energy and a level of comfort during training camp, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic is laid back, which allows the more boisterous personalities of Green and Jordan to stand out, Singer notes.

Brown said he feels more at home in Denver than he did during last season’s drama-filled campaign with a big market club in Brooklyn.

I’m more laid back, chill,” Brown said. “I like to be in the house with my dog and my people. Obviously, New York gets a lot of attention, a lot of media attention. That wasn’t for me, but I love my time with those guys.”

According to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter links), Brown has been playing point guard with the second unit, while Zeke Nnaji has been the backup center. That’s a bit of a change for both players — Brown is a swiss army knife type who has played multiple positions, but mostly on the wing, while Nnaji primarily played power forward in the past. Nnaji has performed well in camp thus far, Wind adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Damian Lillard is just 531 points shy of surpassing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler to become the Trail Blazers‘ all-time leading scorer. Lillard says it’s an accomplishment he doesn’t take lightly. “This feat would mean a lot to me,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “Just the respect I have for the organization and for Clyde and how great of a player he was. I think it shows just how productive I’ve been throughout my career. It would truly be an honor.”
  • Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards is hoping to make big strides on the defensive end in 2022/23, saying that because he’ll be guarding top players more often, he’ll be “salty” to not make an All-Defensive team, as Wolves reporter Dane Moore relays (via Twitter). The former No. 1 overall pick will play a huge part in Minnesota’s standing in the West this season.
  • This year’s No. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, will miss the entire season for the Thunder with a foot injury, but he’s still learning about the NBA while recovering, according to Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press. “What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Northwest Notes: Russell, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic, Brown

D’Angelo Russell has an expiring $31.4MM contract, but the Timberwolves guard doesn’t want to dwell on becoming a free agent after the season, he told Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“Nothing changes,” he said. “You see guys approaching a contract year and doing it incorrectly and it becomes magnified if you’re doing it incorrectly. You might not be going about things the right way or ways you would be going about it if it wasn’t a contract year. I try to keep it consistent, my approach.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who begins a five-year, $179.3MM extension this season, believes that the Thunder are ready to turn the corner, he told Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic“I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension… and I don’t think we’re going to be losing for much longer,” he said. “I believe in this team.”
  • Fresh off signing a super-max extension, Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic says he hopes to play his entire career with the organization, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “That’s the goal,” Jokic said.
  • The Nuggets finished last season ranked No. 15 in team defense. Coach Michael Malone wants to see dramatic improvement, Singer relays in another tweet“Our goal this year is to be a top-five defense,” he said.
  • Bruce Brown left the Nets and signed a two-year contract with the Nuggets in free agency. Malone has big plans for him, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets“I don’t think people understand the importance that Bruce Brown is going to bring to this team,” he said.