Michael Malone

Nuggets’ Malone, Sixers’ Rivers Named Coaches Of The Month

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and Sixers head coach Doc Rivers have been honored as the NBA’s coaches of the month for January in their respective conferences, the league announced today (Twitter link).

Malone, who will serve as the coach for Team LeBron at this year’s All-Star Game in Utah, coached Denver to a 12-4 record in January, improving the team’s overall mark to 35-16, good for the No. 1 seed in the West as of this writing.

Rivers led Philadelphia to an 11-3 run last month, which helped the Sixers reach the third seed in the East with a 33-17 record for the season to date. Rivers, the 2000 Coach of the Year, is in his third season with Philadelphia.

The NBA’s PR department tweets that the Thunder’s Mark Daigneault and the Timberwolves’ Chris Finch were the other two finalists for the award in the Western Conference, while Mike Budenholzer of the Bucks, Joe Mazzulla of the Celtics, and longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were runners-up in the East.

Northwest Notes: Gobert Trade, Malone, Porter Jr., Anderson

The Timberwolves’ acquisition of Rudy Gobert could eventually go down as the most lopsided trade in NBA history with the Jazz as the beneficiary, Andy Larsen of Salt Lake Tribune opines.

Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler has played as well or better than Gobert has this season, in Larsen’s view. Utah also received Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley, who could potentially be flipped for first-round picks, plus the Timberwolves’ first-rounder this year as well as first-rounders in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and a pick swap in 2026.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Malone did not coach the Nuggets’ game against Portland on Tuesday because he entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Assistant David Adelman filled in for Malone.
  • Michael Porter Jr. is feeling healthier and it’s reflected in his increasing dunk total, Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com notes. Porter had 13 dunks this season entering Tuesday’s contest with four coming in the last three games. Porter was sidelined for 13 games last month with a heel injury. “I think my foot’s getting better and I just think my nerve is healing from my back surgery and stuff like that,” Porter said. “I feel like I’m getting my legs back under me a little bit. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near where I will be toward the end of the season, but I feel like I’m in a good place overall.”
  • The Timberwolves used their mid-level exception last summer to sign forward Kyle Anderson to a two-year deal. He’s proving to be a very valuable addition, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Anderson, who is averaging a career-best 3.9 assists, had a triple-double in Monday’s loss to the Jazz. “He’s just such a solid basketball player that when he’s out there, he’s always keeping things steady,” guard Austin Rivers said.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Nnaji, Jokic, MPJ

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has been dealing with shooting issues, but is trying to find other ways to chip in, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Singer notes that Murray’s left knee, which went under the knife in April 2021 after he tore his ACL, was sore during a 119-115 victory over the Hornets Sunday, but Murray did his best to play through the pain. He did not shoot well, but chipped in 11 dimes while only turning over the ball three times.

“I didn’t want to sit out,” Murray said. “I can not score and (still) have a decent game.”

As Singer observes, Murray made an impact through setting good screens, passing, being a threat from deep, and staying in touch with teammates on defense.

The 6’3″ guard is averaging 17.5 PPG on .437/.338/.765 shooting splits. Those shooting numbers mark a bit of a dip since Murray’s last healthy season in 2020/21. He is also chipping in 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG and 0.8 SPG.

There’s more out of Denver:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone believes third-year power forward Zeke Nnaji deserves more playing time, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). “When he’s gotten a chance, he’s done a really good job for us,” Malone noted. “We have to find out if Zeke Nnaji can be a part of this team… Now it’s my job to get him out there and play him – not just one game and sit five. No one can do that. It’s almost like Zeke needs an extended chance to show what he can do to help this team. He deserves that opportunity.”
  • Two-time Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokic is playing at an exceptionally high level for the third straight season, writes Sopan Deb of The New York Times. The big man has emerged as one of the best passers and scorers in the league, and Malone considers him to be a “generational talent.” The 6’11” All-Star is averaging 24.7 PPG, 11 RPG, 9.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG across 27 contests for the 19-11 Nuggets. He also boasts a shooting line of .617/.328/.798 this year.
  • The Nuggets are convinced small forward Michael Porter Jr. can help the team on the defensive end, writes Harrison Wind of DNR Sports. Wind writes that the team’s starting five of Porter, point guard Murray, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, power forward Aaron Gordon and Jokic is posting a defensive rating of 101.6 in 2022/23. Though smaller fill-in starting small forward Bruce Brown is nominally a superior defender, Wind postulates that the sheer size of Porter (6’10” with a 7-foot wingspan) helps positively impact that starting lineup defensively.

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.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Westbrook, Malone

The Lakers are in danger of missing the play-in tournament and their stars may not return in time to save them, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Tuesday’s loss at Dallas knocked L.A. into a 10th-place tie with San Antonio with seven games remaining, and the Spurs hold the tiebreaker because of a better conference record.

LeBron James missed the game against the Mavericks because of a sprained left ankle that he suffered Sunday. He has already been ruled out for Thursday’s contest at Utah and has been granted permission to return to Los Angeles for treatment and evaluation of the injury, Turner tweets.

Anthony Davis is listed as doubtful against the Jazz, but hopes to be ready for Friday’s game with the ninth-place Pelicans, sources told Turner. Davis, who hasn’t played since spraining his right foot and MCL on February 16, was “a little sore” after practicing Monday and the Lakers haven’t decided if it’s safe for him to play Friday.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Coach Frank Vogel was disappointed with how his team responded to the challenge against the Mavericks, Turner states in the same piece. With a chance to solidify their play-in position, the Lakers fell way behind early in the game. “We executed very poorly to start the game and really that whole first half, with what our game plan was,” Vogel said. “And then as we tried to adjust to look at some Plan Bs and Plan Cs, we just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight in that half. So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.” 
  • Russell Westbrook had a testy exchange with reporters after Tuesday’s loss, Turner adds. Westbrook became irritated when he was asked what the team has to do for the rest of the season and challenged media members to come up with a solution. “I’m only one person. It’s a team game,” he said. “So, I don’t have an answer. You may have it.”
  • Vogel is likely to be replaced after the season ends, and a source told Harrison Wind of DNVR that Nuggets coach Michael Malone could have been a prime target if he hadn’t signed an extension with Denver (Twitter link).
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report reviews the mistakes the Lakers have made that caused them go from a championship team to a floundering also-ran in two seasons. The Westbrook trade was an obvious error, but Pincus also points to a lack of roster continuity after the 2020 title and a troubling pattern of letting young talent leave without sufficient compensation.

Nuggets, Michael Malone Agree To Contract Extension

2:45pm: The Nuggets have put out a press release officially confirming Malone’s extension.

“This extension is well deserved for Coach Malone and one we are very excited to announce,” team owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “You can easily point to the on-court success that Michael has brought and the improvements the team has made each year under his watch, and you can also point to the selfless, hard-working culture that has developed and grown during his tenure. We look forward to Coach Malone continuing on the sidelines as we all work toward our goal of bringing an NBA Championship to the city of Denver.”

2:06pm: The Nuggets have agreed to a contract extension with head coach Michael Malone, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The exact terms of the extension aren’t known, but Wojnarowski classifies it as a multiyear agreement. Malone’s previous deal had been set to expire after the 2022/23 season, so it sounds like the team locked him up through at least 2025.

Malone, who coached the Kings before arriving in Denver, has been on the Nuggets’ bench since 2015, making him the NBA’s fifth longest-tenured head coach.

During that time, he has led the club to a 309-237 (.566) record and earned three playoff berths. Denver has won three postseason series under Malone, getting as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2020.

Despite missing Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray – two of their three top scorers from last season – for much of 2021/22, the Nuggets are on pace to finish at least 10 games over .500 for the fifth consecutive season.

Malone’s 309 wins with the Nuggets places him third in team history, behind only Doug Moe (432) and George Karl (423), Wojnarowski notes.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nuggets, Thunder, Nowell

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum saw his first on-court action in over six weeks on Monday, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Having recovered from a collapsed lung suffered on December 4, McCollum chipped in 16 points during 28 minutes of action in his first game back with Portland, helping the team secure a 98-88 victory over the Magic.

“I think this is probably the most happy and at peace I’ve ever been in my life,” the 30-year-old McCollum said, noting that his outlook has shifted following the birth of his first child earlier this month. “I’ve always had a purpose before, but now I really, truly have a real purpose in my life, which is to be a good man and try to raise my son to the best of my abilities.”

In 25 games this season, McCollum is averaging 20.4 PPG, 4.4 APG and 4.0 RPG. His return to the court for the Trail Blazers arrives at a crucial time, as his backcourt mate Damian Lillard underwent surgery to address an abdominal strain last week and is scheduled to miss at least five or six weeks of action.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone discussed the recent right foot surgery of forward Bol Bol and the team’s plans for the NBA trade deadline, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Malone revealed that Bol ultimately opted for the surgery after his trade to the Pistons was scuttled due to medical concerns. “Bol, his representation, once that trade was rescinded because of the failed physical, they felt that it was in his best interest to have the surgery and to address why that physical was failed,” Malone said. The Nuggets’ head coach also acknowledged that the team’s issues with injuries and COVID-19 have impacted the front office’s ability to discern exactly where to make upgrades via trade.
  • The Thunder front office hopes to be install a culture of winning habits despite the team’s less-than-stellar record, writes Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman“You can’t put players in bubble wrap and not expose them to the tough stuff,” said Oklahoma City team president Sam Presti.
  • Timberwolves third-year shooting guard Jaylen Nowell points to his time logged learning from game tape with his improvement on the floor, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “I’m putting more work in off the court as far as watching film damn near every single game, for real,” Nowell said. “I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh this is fun.’ I’m looking more at how guys are getting open, our defensive schemes. I’m watching every team way harder.” Nowell is averaging 7.9 PPG, 2.0 APG and 1.9 RPG with Minnesota this season.

COVID-19 Updates: Malone, Budenholzer, Hawks, Holiday, Marjanovic, Vincent, Nader

Two head coaches may clear health and safety protocols in time for their teams’ next games. Michael Malone traveled with the Nuggets to Oklahoma City and expects to be on the sidelines Sunday, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Malone missed four games while in the protocols, and acting coach Popeye Jones compiled a 2-2 record.

Darvin Ham, who is serving as acting head coach for the Bucks, is hoping Mike Budenholzer will be ready to return for Monday’s game at Charlotte, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). Nehm suggests that Budenholzer still needs to return multiple negative tests before being cleared.

Here are more updates on COVID-19 and the health and safety protocols:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan remains in the protocols, but assistant Chris Jent has been cleared and will serve as acting head coach for Sunday’s game against the Clippers, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Bucks guard Jrue Holiday tested out of the protocols, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, Holiday sat out tonight’s game because of pain in his left ankle.
  • Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic has cleared the protocols, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
  • Heat guard Gabe Vincent is out of the protocols, but isn’t with the team for tonight’s game in Phoenix, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Marcus Garrett is the only Miami player remaining in the protocols.
  • Suns forward Abdel Nader has also cleared the protocols, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Nader is recovering from a knee injury and will have to go through reconditioning before he can play again.
  • Follow our Health And Safety Protocols Tracker for a complete list of how the virus is affecting the league.

Doc Rivers, Michael Malone Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Two more NBA head coaches have entered the health and safety protocols and won’t be on the sidelines for their respective teams in the short term.

Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Sixers coach Doc Rivers has entered the protocols, while Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link) hears from a source that Nuggets coach Michael Malone has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in the protocols.

In Philadelphia, assistant Dan Burke will take over for Rivers as the 76ers’ acting head coach, according to Wojnarowski. Malone will be replaced in Denver by assistant David Adelman for the time being, says Singer.

The list of head coaches in the protocols continues to grow — Frank Vogel, Billy Donovan, Monty Williams, Chauncey Billups, and Mark Daigneault are also currently affected. Rick Carlisle and Alvin Gentry were in the protocols earlier in the month but have since resumed coaching the Pacers and Kings, respectively.

In addition to placing Rivers in the health and safety protocols today, the Sixers also had two more players enter — Myles Powell and Tyler Johnson are now in the protocols and have been ruled out for Thursday’s game vs. Brooklyn, tweets Wojnarowski.

Western Notes: Bledsoe, Kuminga, Kings Guards, Porter Jr.

Clippers offseason acquisition Eric Bledsoe has heated up over the past three games, averaging 18.7 points and 5.0 assists on 52.4% shooting. The veteran point guard is feeling more at ease with his new teammates, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes.

They just told me to just play my game, go out there and play my game. Don’t worry about the mistakes, that comes with it,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms and so it’s been pretty fun through the struggles, just got to keep it going.”

Bledsoe’s $19.375MM salary for next season is not guaranteed and it’s likely he’ll be a free agent.

We have more on the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors view Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 overall pick, as a defensive weapon in the short run and a potential two-way centerpiece in the future, according to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Kuminga has played a total of 26 minutes off the bench the last two games. “I have no doubt in my mind that he can check just about anybody,” Draymond Green said.
  • Even with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in their backcourt, the Kings need to find another play-maker, James Ham of The Kings Beat opines. Rookie Davion Mitchell, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes are not suited for that role when both Fox and Haliburton are off the court, in Ham’s viewpoint, so Sacramento must go out and acquire another play-maker.
  • Michael Porter Jr. remains sidelined on Monday due to lower back pain and there’s uncertainty about the Nuggets’ forward’s status in the near future, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets“It’s an ongoing thing, trying to figure out what’s going on…I’d still say that Michael’s out for the foreseeable future,” coach Michael Malone said. “We’re trying to take it one day at a time with him and see what the best way to approach getting him back healthy is.”