- Monte Morris is grateful the Nuggets extended his contract during the offseason, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “The contract got me at peace,” he said. Morris signed a three-year, $27MM extension early last month. He’s averaging a career-high 11.7 PPG and 3.2 APG in 26.3 MPG through Denver’s first 15 games.
JANUARY 22: Porter will be active and will play against Phoenix on Friday night, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played in a game since December 29 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has reported back to the Nuggets and will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.
Porter was originally held out for seven days for contact tracing purposes, then tested positive for the coronavirus, extending his quarantine period by another two weeks.
The young forward will have to ramp up his conditioning and complete additional testing – including a cardio exam – before he’s formally cleared to return to the Nuggets’ lineup (Twitter links via Singer and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).
While it’s not clear if Porter will be game-ready by tomorrow, head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s optimistic the 22-year-old will be able to play at some point during Denver’s five-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Phoenix and runs through next Friday (January 29) in San Antonio.
Malone stated earlier this week that Porter’s spot in the starting lineup is safe, though he referred to Will Barton today as “a starter,” noting that he feels the Nuggets have more than five starter-caliber players, tweets Singer. As such, it remains to be seen whether MPJ will immediately supplant Barton as the team’s starting small forward or if he’ll be gradually eased back into that role.
Michael Porter Jr. missed his 10th consecutive game on Tuesday due to the league’s health and safety protocols but he could join the Nuggets on their five-game road trip that begins Friday in Phoenix, according to an Associated Press report. Porter hasn’t played since he racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento on December 29. “He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here,” coach Michael Malone said. “When we do get him back, he will be a welcome sight.”
Nuggets forward Greg Whittington underwent a successful knee arthroscopy on Tuesday morning, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Nuggets, Whittington will be re-evaluated in about four to six weeks.
Whittington, who went undrafted in 2015 out of Georgetown, has played in the G League and a handful of international leagues since then before getting a shot in Denver this past fall. He signed a two-way contract with the Nuggets in November, but has been unable to make his NBA debut so far due to his left knee issues.
The Nuggets have had relatively good luck so far this season when it comes to injuries and COVID-19, so even if Whittington had been healthy, there may not have been many opportunities for him yet. Fellow two-way player Markus Howard has logged just seven minutes across five games for Denver.
Players on two-way contracts are limited to being active for 50 of their team’s 72 games. Because Whittington will have missed more than 22 games by the time he gets healthy, the Nuggets will be able to activate him for any and every game down the stretch, if needed.
- Michael Porter Jr.‘s starting spot is safe, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Monday, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Porter hasn’t played since December 29 after being placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list. “Bottom line is, he’s the starting small forward at 6’10”, averaging close to 20 points a game and seven rebounds,” Malone said. “Not only are you whole, but you have a really talented player who’s a big part of your current team and also your future.”
- Nuggets center Nikola Jokic raved about new teammate JaMychal Green after Thursday’s win over Golden State, as Alex Ladibou of Nuggets.com writes. “I’ve always said JaMychal is a guy I’d like to play with for the rest of my life,” Jokic said. “He is amazing.” A source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post that Jokic expressed a similar sentiment privately to Green after the game.
Now that the Rockets have moved James Harden, there’s an expectation that the team will be more open to trading P.J. Tucker as well. A report earlier this week indicated that multiple teams are asking about Tucker, and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves are among the clubs expected to be in the hunt for the veteran forward.
The Wolves, who reportedly inquired on Tucker during the offseason, have been monitoring his situation in Houston since before the draft and have maintained contact with the Rockets since then, according to Krawczynski.
Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked in Houston’s front office before joining the Wolves in 2019, though it remains to be seen whether his friendly relationship with the Rockets’ top decision-makers will help grease the wheels for a potential deal. As Krawczynski points out, Tucker’s versatility and his $8MM expiring contract will make him a logical trade target for several contenders.
Still, the Wolves look like an especially good fit for Tucker, given their lack of reliable options at the power forward spot. Rosas himself has acknowledged that the team could use an upgrade at the four, as Krawczynski relayed earlier in the week.
“The power forward position is probably one of the areas where we have the most questions right now,” Rosas said. “Part of it is there’s some young guys there and we’re trying to get to a good fit. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if we’re not trying to improve and get better and address our needs.”
Having opted for a Harden package loaded with draft picks and swaps, the Rockets would likely prioritize draft assets again in talks for Tucker and would presumably attempt to land a first-round pick. That may reduce the Wolves’ chances, according to Krawczynski, who points out that Minnesota has already traded away a top-three protected 2021 first-rounder and isn’t in a great position to be selling off more picks for a 35-year-old on an expiring deal.
Even if the Rockets do intend to move Tucker, there’s no rush to do so right away, as the trade deadline isn’t until March 25. While we wait to see which other teams might be in the mix for the former Texas Longhorn, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets weren’t among the teams to inquire as of Wednesday night, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link).
After starting Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. cleared his initial quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing last week, he saw his isolation window extended for an extra 10-to-14 days. The team did not disclose the reason for the new quarantine period when it was announced last week.
Tonight, head coach Michael Malone finally verified that Porter’s continued absence from the team was a result of his testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link).
The Nuggets could certainly use the 22-year-old’s contributions on the floor. After a 122-116 loss to the Nets tonight, Denver fell to 5-6 on the season and currently hold the No. 11 seed in a talented Western Conference.
Across four games, the 6’10” forward out of Missouri is averaging 19.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.0 SPG in 29.4 MPG during the 2020/21 season. Veteran swingman Will Barton has started in Porter’s stead thus far. Denver is next scheduled to host the Warriors in a TNT broadcast on Thursday.
While James Harden‘s offseason trade request has dominated NBA headlines for the last month or two, league sources question how willing Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is to deal the superstar guard this season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
With the likes of John Wall, Christian Wood, and even rookie Jae’Sean Tate playing well, front office executives around the NBA believe the Rockets are becoming more confident that Harden will be comfortable staying in Houston for the rest of the season, writes O’Connor. The former MVP still prefers to be traded, but if the Rockets can build upon their early promise and improve their 3-5 record, he may not push quite as hard for a deal.
Here’s more from O’Connor:
- Teams around the NBA are keeping close eye on the 2-8 Wizards in case Bradley Beal grows frustrated and decides he wants out. Both O’Connor and John Hollinger of The Athletic suggest there’s a case to be made that Beal could be even more appealing as a trade target than Harden. Beal is nearly four years younger than Harden and has “a more malleable game” that makes him a great fit in any system, O’Connor argues.
- The presumed top suitors for Harden, including the Nets and Sixers, would also have interest in Beal, league sources tell The Ringer. The 76ers are a threat to acquire any available star player if they’re willing to put Ben Simmons on the table, but people around the league are more skeptical about Brooklyn’s ability to land a star, says O’Connor.
- O’Connor asked 14 executives which under-the-radar teams could be candidates to acquire a star player via trade, and six named the Pelicans — rival execs don’t necessarily expect David Griffin to hoard New Orleans’ excess draft picks for years, given how good Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson already are. The Heat, Knicks, Mavericks, Nuggets, and Spurs also received votes.
- In case you missed it, O’Connor also said that Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is “firmly” on the hot seat, as we detailed earlier today.
Despite the Nuggets opening the season with a 4-5 record, the team is widely recognized as having one of the best offenses in the league — one that significantly improves when Gary Harris finds his rhythm, head coach Mike Malone acknowledged.
“Gary allows us to be a different team when the offense is flowing like it was tonight,” Malone said after Denver’s 115-103 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “…Gary deserves it. He’s been working so hard, and for him to see the ball go through the net, I’m just happy for him because I know it’s been on his mind.”
Harris finished with 21 points against the Sixers, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range in 28 minutes. He’s been a key cog in Denver’s offense for several years, averaging double-digit points per game in each of his last six seasons. The team could use his offensive production as it looks to contend in an already-crowded Western Conference this season.
There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:
- Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic examines the return of Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in an overtime loss against the Spurs on Saturday. “People don’t know the toughness that he has, not just physically but mentally, too,” head coach Ryan Saunders said postgame. “I’ll always ride with KAT. Tonight was evident of that. He was clearly limited. I thought he was unbelievably effective.”
- Damian Lillard and his camp have advocated for the Blazers to acquire Warriors forward Draymond Green over the past couple of years, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (hat tip Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). However, there has been no indication that Golden State has any interest in trading Green, who has spent all nine seasons of his career with the Warriors.
- Marc Spears of The Undefeated examined the Jacob Blake decision and more with Thunder guard George Hill, who offered insight about topics on and off the court. “I can’t speak for everybody. I can only speak for myself. I just think with the way the world is going, I just think we all need to come together,” Hill said as part of a larger quote addressing where players should go with the social justice movement this season. “We’re 450 [players] and when 450 stand strong, we’re more powerful than everyone thinks. We’re way more powerful than they think we are. I learned a lot from LeBron [James] and how he migrated and moved on and off the floor. He is a huge inspiration with how he uses his leverage to open doors and how powerful he is. That is just one guy. Four hundred and fifty can be really strong if we just come together.