Michael Malone

And-Ones: Bubble, COVID-19, B. Williams, Singh

The NBA sent out a memo today informing teams that staffers will be permitted to bring guests into the Orlando bubble for the Conference Finals, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As Wojnarowski explains, those guests will have to quarantine for seven days before being cleared to move around within the NBA’s bubble. Additionally, each club will be allowed to host a maximum of 10 total staff guests.

The NBA is adjusting its protocols just days after Nuggets head coach Michael Malone vocally expressed his displeasure with the league’s decision not to allow coaches to bring family members onto the Disney World campus.

While Malone was the most outspoken about the policy, a number of other coaches have publicly and privately expressed a similar sentiment. Of course, with his Nuggets trailing 2-1 in the second round and at risk of being eliminated before the Conference Finals, Malone may not end up benefiting from the league’s updated protocols.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA teams also received a memo from the league this week alerting medical staffs to be aware of an increased risk of blood clotting associated with the coronavirus, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. While no players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the bubble, a number of players previously contracted the virus.
  • Arizona guard Brandon Williams, who averaged 11.4 PPG as a freshman in 2018/19 before missing his sophomore season due to a knee issue, will leave the program to pursue professional opportunities, the school confirmed in a press release. It’s too late for Williams to declare for this year’s draft, but he’ll forgo his remaining college eligibility.
  • Princepal Singh, a 6’10” forward from India and a graduate of the NBA Academy, spoke to Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype about his decision to play for the NBA G League Ignite select team and his desire to “inspire the youth of India.”
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Mike Schmitz identifies some NBA players who have had performed well during the summer restart and explores what impact those performances may have on prospects from the 2020 draft class. For instance, Schmitz suggests that Luguentz Dort‘s impressive defense on James Harden in the first round should make scouts feel more comfortable about a defense-first wing like Isaac Okoro.

Restart Notes: Malone, NBA Statement, James, Bubble Ball

Nuggets coach Michael Malone created a controversy on Friday when he criticized the NBA for not allowing coaches’ families to enter the Orlando campus. Malone said the league should be ashamed for the prohibition, according to The Denver Post’s Mike Singer.

“I miss my family, and I think I speak for me, I speak for my coaches and probably all the coaches down here,” Malone said. “Sixty days and not having access and not being granted the privilege to have my family come here, to me, is criminal in nature.”

Players were allowed to bring in a limited number of family members and guests after the opening round of the playoffs.

  • In response to Malone’s criticism, as Sam Amick from The Athletic relays (Twitter link), the NBA issued a statement that read in part: “We are hoping to add additional family members for other participants beginning with the Conference Finals.” Coaches Association president Rick Carlisle then issued a statement, relayed by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link), indicating that “NBCA discussions with the league office are ongoing. We will continue to work with the NBA as partners to evaluate the viability of coaches’ families coming to Orlando as more teams exit.”
  • LeBron James paid homage to Players Association president Chris Paul for his role in the restart and leadership in Orlando: “Obviously we’re here right now in this bubble and the restart of our season is a large part to him and to everyone that had anything to do with the PA,” James said. “But CP was very instrumental to this thing getting restarted. I commend him on that, his leadership, his candid words since he’s been here, both on and off the floor. Just another inspiring person, man. Not only from a basketball perspective.” (hat tip to The Orange County Register’s Kyle Goon)
  • Offensive efficiency has increased during the restart and The Athletic’s Seth Partnow explores the potential reasons for the upswing this summer.

Northwest Notes: Dort, Malone, Nurkic, Collins

A rookie guard who was virtually unknown a few months ago may have changed the shape of the Thunder’s first-round series, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Luguentz Dort made life difficult for Rockets star James Harden whenever they were matched up in Saturday’s Game 3, setting the stage for Oklahoma City to rally for a badly needed overtime victory.

Harden scored 38 points, but shot just 7-for-21 while Dort was in the game. The rookie has shown an ability to stay in front of the league’s top scorer and force him into contested 3-pointers.

“We know Lu and what he does,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s what we expect every night.”

Dort’s defensive prowess leaves coach Billy Donovan with a difficult choice moving forward, notes Royce Young of ESPN. The Thunder need Dort to counteract Harden, but that means sitting out one member of the unit that normally closes games. An injury to Steven Adams dictated the decision Saturday, but Donovan may have to adjust his regular lineup for the rest of the series.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • It’s too soon to think about firing Michael Malone, but Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post believes trust between the Nuggets coach and his players is broken after two straight lopsided losses to the Jazz. Malone questioned his team’s resolve after Game 3, saying, “I think we give in too easy” and “Our group has to be a lot more mentally tough.” Denver doesn’t have a hard-nosed leader in the locker room, Kiszla adds, and its closest thing to a “glue guy” is Will Barton, who left Orlando to rehab his injured knee.
  • The strain of returning to a high-pressure environment 17 months after suffering a compound fracture in his leg is beginning to show on Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, observes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Players are usually brought along slowly after such a serious injury, but Nurkic is being asked to log heavy minutes in a playoff setting. Slater notes that an injury to Zach Collins and a lack of production from Hassan Whiteside leaves Portland with no other options.
  • Collins talks with Jason Quick of The Athletic about the frustration of having a second serious injury within 12 months. Collins, who is coming off surgery on his left shoulder, now has a hairline fracture in his left ankle that doctors discovered before Game 2. “You don’t want to be a downer in front of your team and get everybody’s mood down,” he said. “They don’t need that. But definitely, when I got back (to the hotel) and talked with my agent and my parents, it all kind of hits you. It hits you that you are going to have to go through a whole another process again.”

Nuggets Coach Michael Malone Had COVID-19

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone revealed on Monday that he contracted the novel coronavirus in March.

Malone is the first NBA coach known to have tested positive for the virus. In March, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was the first prominent head coach in a major U.S. sport who revealed he had COVID-19.

Malone made his revelation during an interview with CBS Denver 4 (hat tip to ESPN). Malone didn’t find out he had the virus until he received an antibody test approximately two months later.

“I’d say around March 20, I started not feeling well, and we began reaching out to team doctors to see if I could get a test,” Malone said. “Unfortunately, at that time, there was no testing available. So I only found out after the fact. I was able to get an antibody test probably right around Memorial Day weekend. And not surprisingly, our team doctor called up and said, ‘Listen, you tested positive.'”

Numerous players contracted the virus in March following Rudy Gobert‘s positive test that resulted in the suspension of play, including Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant, Christian Wood and Marcus Smart. Interestingly, an unnamed member of the Nuggets organization also tested positive in March. That person was experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 on March 16.

Malone’s team was 43-22 when play was halted and remains one of the top contenders for the title. Malone is hopeful that the Orlando bubble environment will limit the possibility of an outbreak among participants.

“I hope that going down to Orlando will be a safe environment and we can limit the amount of people that actually get [COVID-19],” he said.

Nuggets Notes: Beasley, Porter, Hernangomez, Malone

Nuggets coach Michael Malone credits reserve guard Malik Beasley for not sulking during a difficult season, Mike Singer of the Denver Post relays. Beasley, who can be a restricted free agent this summer if the Nuggets extend a qualifying offer, got extended minutes on Thursday with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris sidelined and took advantage. He scored a season-high 27 points in an overtime win over Golden State. Beasley hasn’t received steady playing time but Malone says Beasley has handled it professionally.

“You have a choice, as a man, you have a choice,” Malone said. “‘Am I gonna feel sorry for myself or am I gonna stay ready?’ And to his credit he’s continued to stay ready.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone vows to keep rookie Michael Porter Jr. in the rotation going forward, Singer tweets “Earlier in the season, he wasn’t sure when he was going to be playing, is he going to be playing? So now, that’s out the window,” he said. “Michael Porter is a huge part of our future, he’s going to play every night.” Porter has reached double figures in each of his last three games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist performance against the Warriors.
  • Trading forward Juan Hernangomez would negatively impact the locker room, Singer opines in his latest mailbag. Hernangomez has a major influence on team chemistry and is close friends with Nikola Jokic, Singer notes, adding that Jokic, Murray and Porter are the team’s untouchables in trade discussions.
  • Malone is glad to be coaching a playoff contender that didn’t take shortcuts to success, as he explained to Michael Lee of The Athletic. Malone notes that Denver hasn’t gone for the quick fix. “For me, this being my fifth year, that’s maybe one of the more enjoyable things about our journey, is how we’ve been able to build this from the ground up and build it from within, organically,” he said. “We haven’t gone out and traded for the marquee player. We haven’t mortgaged our future by sending these two young assets to here, to rent a player for a year or two, to have instant success, but not long-term success. It speaks to our front office, our ownership that we can continue to communicate and collaborate and challenge each other.”

Team Serbia In Talks To Hire Michael Malone As Aide, Consultant

JANUARY 16: Asked on Wednesday night about his status with Serbia, Malone denied that the two sides had finalized an agreement, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). They’ve talked, but nothing is official yet, Singer adds.

JANUARY 15: Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been hired by the Serbian national program to be a consultant and a top aide for Igor Kokoskov during this summer’s Olympic qualifying efforts, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were in advanced discussions.

Although Kokoskov – the former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant – will run the show for Serbia this summer, Malone’s experience with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic makes him a natural fit to be involved with the team as well. Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes (via Twitter) that Malone’s involvement is likely contingent on Jokic participating.

With his contract locked in through 2023, there’s no reason to think Jokic won’t play for Serbia in the summer, barring an injury. After a disappointing showing at the 2019 World Cup, the Serbians will be vying for one of the four remaining spots for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with Denver’s big man leading the way.

One of those four Olympic qualifying tournaments in June will be held in Belgrade — Serbia will need to win that tournament to advance to Tokyo.

Malone becomes the latest in a line of NBA head coaches who are involved in international programs. Gregg Popovich, of course, will coach Team USA in the 2020 Olympics and may be joined by assistants like Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce, who were on Popovich’s World Cup staff. Brett Brown and Nick Nurse coach Australia and Canada, respectively.

Nuggets, Michael Malone Agree To Contract Extension

The Nuggets have agreed to a contract extension with head coach Michael Malone, the club announced today in a press release. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that it extends Malone’s contract through the 2022/23 season.

“This season and team has been about continuity, with Coach Malone being the first piece of that,” controlling owner Josh Kroenke said in a statement. “We are thrilled to continue to have him lead this promising young roster and are excited about what the future holds. Coach Malone has been pivotal in this organization’s success and will continue to be so.”

“We have been very fortunate to have Coach Malone lead our resurgence. His tireless work ethic and passion are clearly reflected in the continued improvement of our roster,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly added in a statement of his own. “We are all extremely excited for him to continue to lead our team as we try to build a championship level organization.”

Malone, who previously coached the Kings, has been on the sidelines for the Nuggets since the 2015/16 season. The team won just 33 games in his first year, but has improved its record in every season since then and is on pace to do so again in 2019/20. In total, Malone has a 194-163 (.543) record with the franchise, with one playoff series victory.

This is the second time in the last 15 months that the Nuggets have announced a new deal for Malone. The previous extension, which was finalized in October 2018, reportedly added two years to his contract, locking him up through the 2020/21 season. His latest agreement with Denver adds two more years to that deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Malone, Rotation, Porter, Craig, Murray

The Nuggets have recalled rookie center Bol Bol from the G League but they’re not burning any of the 45 days he’s allotted to spend in the NBA on his two-way contract, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Bol is expected to remain with the Nuggets for a couple of weeks but won’t practice or play before being sent back down to the Windy City Bulls. He’ll be listed as out due to “injury management” for his surgically repaired left foot, Singer adds. Bol has averaged 11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG in less than 17 MPG with Windy City.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • The league has instituted coach’s challenges this season but like many of the men who patrol the sidelines, Michael Malone likes to save his challenge for crunch time, Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website notes. “As you see it kind of play out, most coaches like to keep it (the challenge) in their pocket for late game situations. The only time I can see using it early is if you’re trying to protect a great player (from foul trouble),” Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have plenty of depth, which has created a pleasant dilemma for Malone on a game-by-game basis, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic points out. Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Jerami Grant have defined reserve roles but Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr. and Malik Beasley have seen major fluctuations in playing time. “It’s not easy from a player or coach’s standpoint,” Plumlee said. “But I’ll say guys have handled it as well as any team I’ve been on.”
  • Porter has appeared in 10 games, averaging 3.8 PPG in 9.0 MPG, and Malone hopes to expand his role, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic“I have to find ways to play him this year,” Malone said. “This cannot be a wasted year for him.”
  • Craig has lost playing time but he’s not creating any problems in the locker room, Singer relays in a separate story“We all get along, we’re all happy for each other when each other have success,” he said. “I’m not one to sit here and pout when my teammates are doing good. If they’re doing good and we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  • Jamal Murray will play for Team Canada next summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada reports. Canada will host an Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. in late June, and then head to Tokyo if the team snags one of the six remaining spots in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

Northwest Notes: Gasol, Malone, Paul, Rohan

Trail Blazers center Pau Gasol is hopeful he’ll be ready to play by opening night, Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweets.  Gasol underwent surgery in May to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He’s scheduled to begin contact work this week and is happy how his rehab is coming along, Freeman relays. Gasol signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Blazers to provide depth at the center spot as Jusuf Nurkic mends from a serious leg injury.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • After reaching the Western Conference Semifinals last season, the Nuggets find themselves in an unfamiliar role as the hunted, coach Michael Malone told website writer Eric Spyropoulos. “Because of the season that we had, we have to know that we’re going to be a team that’s hunted, unlike being the hunter last season,” Malone said. “We can’t just relax. Things can change quickly in the NBA, so we can’t just show up and think we’ll go from point A to B.”
  • Chris Paul isn’t pouting, at least not publicly, about being on a rebuilding Thunder team after being traded from the contending Rockets, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reports. Paul took a positive tone during the team’s Media Day. “It’s funny, because a lot people try to tell your truth or your story and say what you want, all this different type stuff,” Paul said. “I’m excited about the opportunity, excited about our team, excited about building.”
  • The Timberwolves have promoted Emmanuel Rohan to assistant GM, according to a team press release. Assistant GM Gianluca Pascucci will have the added responsibilities of GM of the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Grant, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jazz

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard believes he can bring out the best of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic center acquired from the Heat as part of the multi-team Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. Lillard has a good friendship with Whiteside and that should help prevent Whiteside from getting over-emotional, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“I said, ‘So this is what this is going to come down to: If in the middle of the game, you are not getting the ball and you mad, and you felt like somebody should have done something, you come and say something to me,” Lillard said. “And if (Trail Blazers) Coach (Terry Stotts) is getting on you, or Coach takes you out and you get mad at Coach, me and you have to be able to communicate. Even if we argue, that’s fine. But we have to be able to get through to each other.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is thrilled with the acquisition of forward Jerami Grant from the Thunder, as he told Alex Labidou of the team’s website. He believes Grant will mesh well with franchise player Nikola Jokic and significantly improve the team’s defense. “Watching film, he’s guarded Damian Lillard, James Harden, Anthony Davis, the guy can guard anybody,” Malone said. “I think that versatility is exciting.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives the Thunder a long-term answer at point guard who may have a better future than Paul George, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Gilgeous-Alexander is nine years younger than George, Tramel notes, and he displayed better defensive and shooting skills than Russell Westbrook did in his rookie year.
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert shrugs off the Clippers’ acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and George, confident that the Jazz have done enough this offseason to become serious contenders. “We don’t want to pay too much attention into what the other teams are doing,” Gobert told Tony Jones of The Athletic. “We want to keep working hard, and we want to stay hungry. We know what we have to do. Whenever we step out onto the court, the goal is to win. We know that we have a chance to do some good things this year. But we want to take things one step at a time.”
  • The Timberwolves have brought back Bryan Gates as an assistant coach under Ryan Saunders, according to an Associated Press report. Gates has been on the Kings’ staff the last three seasons but spent the 2015/16 season with Minnesota.