Michael Malone

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.”

Northwest Notes: Barton, Nuggets, D’Antoni, Rosas

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone would “love” for starting shooting guard Will Barton to return to the club in the 2021/22 season, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Barton has a $14.6MM player option.

“I would love for Will Barton to be back,” Malone said of Barton, who has been with the Nuggets since the club traded for him in a deal with the Trail Blazers during the 2014/15 season. “Everything he brings to the team. That’s on the court, off the court, in the locker room, from a culture standpoint. … He means a ton to me personally. He means a ton to this team and everything we’ve been able to accomplish these last six years. … Me, personally, I hope he’s back here for a long time.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets‘ chemistry, both on the court and on the bench, will eventually yield a title, opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. The night during which Denver was ousted from the playoffs by Suns, in a four-game second-round sweep, MVP center Nikola Jokic, head coach Michael Malone, and team owner Josh Kroenke all sat down for a drink. “When I went home that night, I said, ‘Man, we got a really unique setup here,’” Malone reflected. “We’re all disappointed, we lost, no one was happy. … But to have an owner and an MVP who are just so down to earth and committed to doing whatever it takes to be better and find ways to win a championship, those two hours were so important.” The club was without its second-best player, guard Jamal Murray, for the entirety of its playoff run. Kiszla notes that the close bond between that trio is a rare thing in pro sports.
  • Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni was perceived as the runner-up finalist to land the Trail Blazers head coaching job that is expected to go to Chauncey Billups, write Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic. Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, who would have been the first female head coach hired by a franchise in the big four American men’s sports, was the third option, Charania and Amick write.
  • Timberwolves GM Gerson Rosas handled the end of the 2020/21 season and the lead-up to last week’s lottery with the right approach, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. A mostly-healthy Minnesota team went 7-5 to close the season. Their top-three protected first-round pick fell to No. 7 in the lottery, and will be conveyed to the Warriors. Neal commends Rosas for wanting to see what the Timberwolves had under new head coach Chris Finch, rather than tanking and attempting to retain the team’s 2021 first-round pick.

Monty Williams Wins Coaches Association Award

Suns head coach Monty Williams has won the 2020/21 Michael H. Goldberg award, as voted on by the National Basketball Coaches Association, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

Williams earned the Coaches Association’s award after leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, good for second in the NBA. The club had the league’s sixth-ranked defense and seventh-ranked offense, Wojnarowski notes.

The Suns, who were 19-63 in 2018/19, became just the fifth team in NBA history to improve by at least 15 games in back-to-back seasons, per Woj. Williams accomplished that feat in his first two years in Phoenix despite dealing with pandemic-shortened seasons, making the feat even more impressive.

According to Wojnarowski, Scott Brooks (Wizards), Michael Malone (Nuggets), Nate McMillan (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Sixers), Quin Snyder (Jazz), and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks) were among the other coaches who received votes.

The previous winners of this award are as follows:

  • 2020: Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan
  • 2019: Mike Budenholzer
  • 2018: Dwane Casey
  • 2017: Mike D’Antoni and Erik Spoelstra

Nuggets Promote Wes Unseld Jr. To Associate Head Coach

The Nuggets have promoted Wes Unseld Jr. to associate head coach, according to a team press release.

Unseld begins his sixth season with the Nuggets coaching staff and will continue to oversee the defensive game plans.

He interviewed for the Rockets’ head coaching job this offseason. Houston wound up hiring Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas. He was also a candidate for the Bulls’ coaching vacancy, which was filled by Billy Donovan.

“Wes is extremely deserving of this promotion. He is one of the hardest working people I’ve come across in this league and he has been an integral part of my coaching staff since we both arrived in Denver in 2015,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said in a statement. “I’ve said many times over the years that Wes is ready and deserving of a head coaching position in the NBA and it’s only a matter of time until that day comes.”

Prior to joining the Nuggets, Unseld spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Magic. He has also spent time in the Warriors and Wizards organizations.

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.