Michael Porter Jr.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Porter, Murray, Schedule

Nikola Jokic returned to action on Tuesday after missing two games due to left hamstring tightness and looked like his usual self, posting a 25-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple double in a one-point win in New Orleans. However, the Nuggets star was sidelined again on Wednesday in Milwaukee, ruled out due to hamstring tightness.

According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), Jokic’s absence on Wednesday appeared to be simply precautionary on the second night of a back-to-back set. The two-time MVP took part in pregame warmups prior to tip-off on Wednesday, and there was no indication that he aggravated his hamstring injury in his return on Tuesday.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. missed a third consecutive game on Wednesday for personal reasons. He has been out since word broke on Sunday that his younger brother, University of Denver sophomore guard Coban Porter, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide and reckless driving, as Shelly Bradbury of The Denver Post details. Coban Porter crashed into another car around 2:00 am on Sunday morning and the driver of the other vehicle died at the scene. Police alleged the 21-year-old ran a red light before the collision and smelled like alcohol and was slurring his words following the incident.
  • Jamal Murray has averaged 21.6 PPG on .477/.449/.905 shooting over his last 16 games, but there are still moments when he doesn’t feel all the way back from the ACL tear that cost him all of last season, he admits to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Examining Murray’s journey back from that injury and the Nuggets’ chances of winning a championship, Amick suggests that the 25-year-old guard may represent the key to Denver’s title hopes.
  • What should have been a showdown between two recent MVPs on Wednesday turned into a bit of a dud when the Nuggets sat Jokic, Murray, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back. Head coach Michael Malone expressed some disappointment that the NBA didn’t “set this game up to be a little bit more of a marquee matchup,” but added that he sympathizes with the schedule-makers, according to Singer of The Denver Post. “The league has an impossible job,” Malone said.

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.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Caruso, Timberwolves, Williams

The Nuggets might to be turning a corner on the defensive end, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Denver has won six of its past seven games to move to 20-11, and the team is 12th in defensive rating over that span, up from 23rd on the season, Singer notes.

As Singer details, the third quarter of Friday’s home win over Portland was a particularly impressive defensive stretch, with the Nuggets outscoring the Blazers 35-16. Michael Porter Jr., who made his return to the lineup after a 13-game absence with a left foot injury, played a big part in that effort, as did Jamal Murray, who sat out Tuesday’s game due to knee maintenance.

When our defense turned up, the offense is great, but I just get so excited when I see five guys locked in, on a string,” head coach Michael Malone said, per Singer.

Porter described his injury as a form of plantar fasciitis, and he finished with 18 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes, Singer adds. Murray nearly notched a triple-double, recording 25 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists and a couple steals.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • In a subscriber-only story for The Denver Post, Singer says league-wide parity has contributed to a lack of sellers on the trade market thus far. The Bulls haven’t shown any interest in dealing away contributing players yet, but if that changes, Alex Caruso would be a nice bench upgrade for the Nuggets, according to Singer, who also thinks an upgrade over Zeke Nnaji and DeAndre Jordan at the backup five might be needed if Denver doesn’t trust either player for a postseason run.
  • Four Timberwolves role players — Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Nathan Knight — have a special bond, and their camaraderie has helped the team during tense moments, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I want to see the whole team succeed. But those are guys that I’m very, very close with,” Nowell said. “They’re really like blood brothers. It hits a little different when you see your family being successful.” All four are at key junctures in their careers — McDaniels is eligible for a rookie scale extension in the summer, Reid and Nowell will be unrestricted free agents, and Knight is playing on a non-guaranteed deal.
  • Rookie big man Jaylin Williams, the 34th overall pick of June’s draft, sustained a concussion on Wednesday in a G League contest for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder announced. The second-rounder is now in the league’s concussion protocol. Williams has only made seven NBA appearances thus far, averaging 3.0 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 8.7 minutes per contest, but he has been a regular with the Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate, averaging 14.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.3 APG and 1.4 SPG on .626/.364/.741 shooting in 11 games (30.6 MPG).

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’ Michael Porter Jr. Plans To Play Friday

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. says he’s “definitely playing” on Friday against Portland, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter links).

Oddly, head coach Michael Malone spoke to the media before Porter, and he said the 24-year-old’s status for Friday was still up in the air and indicated that he would have a minutes restriction when he does play. According to Wind, Porter then followed Malone and stated that he was playing and didn’t think there would be any restrictions, so evidently there was a miscommunication between the coach and player.

Porter has been sidelined since Nov. 22 while dealing with a left heel strain, missing the past 13 games with the injury. He downplayed the severity of the injury despite missing a month of action.

For me, if it’s not related to my back, I’m not too worried about it…this is something that’s unrelated to my back,” Porter said (Twitter link via Wind).

Porter, who played just nine games last season after undergoing his third back surgery since college, is averaging 16.4 points and 6.0 rebounds on .466/.427/.800 shooting through 16 games (29.1 minutes per contest). He’s officially listed as questionable for Friday night, as is guard Jamal Murray (left knee injury management), tweets Wind.

After defeating Memphis on Tuesday, the Nuggets have recaptured the top seed in the West, currently sitting with a 19-11 record through 30 games.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Payton II, Simons, Agbaji

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. participated in practice on a limited basis Monday for the first time since he suffered a heel injury, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Porter is unlikely to play Wednesday against the Wizards but the team is hopeful he can keep progressing at practice this week, including contact and live drills. He hasn’t played since Nov. 22.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Guard Gary Payton II is targeting his season debut in the next week or two, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. Payton signed a three-year, $26MM contract with the Trail Blazers as an unrestricted free agent in July, then had core muscle surgery during the offseason. Payton was a key rotation player on the Warriors’ championship team and the Blazers view him as a valuable reserve.
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups has invested more time with Anfernee Simons than anyone else on the roster and it’s paying off, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. Simons, who signed a four-year, $100MM extension during the summer, is averaging 24.2 points and is shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. “He’s still like PlayDoh; we are still shaping him,” Billups said. “He’s still scratching the surface, in my opinion.”
  • It’s been a rough rookie campaign for the Jazz’s Ochai Agbaji thus far, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. The No. 14 overall pick has only appeared in 11 games, averaging 9.5 MPG, and has also struggled at the G League level. The Jazz are still sold on the former Kansas standout’s raw talent and athleticism.

Injury Notes: Lakers, Conley, R. Williams, MPJ, Wesley, T. Davis

The Lakers should have their two superstars back on Friday night in Philadelphia. LeBron James missed Wednesday’s game in Toronto to rest his sore right ankle, but he’ll be available on Friday, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). Anthony Davis, who left Tuesday’s game in Cleveland with a non-COVID illness and remained out on Wednesday, is listed as probable to play on Friday, McMenamin adds.

Meanwhile, in Utah, Jazz guard Mike Conley has been cleared to return, as expected, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Sidelined since November 19 due to a knee injury, Conley said today that he had already been planning to return tonight, but felt more urgency to get back on the court with Collin Sexton now on the shelf (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune).

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Celtics big man Robert Williams declined to offer specifics when asked about when he might make his season debut, repeatedly stating that he’s “day to day.” However, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe and Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter links) believe Williams may be trending toward a Saturday return, noting that head coach Joe Muzzalla couldn’t hold back a smile when asked about the possibility of the center playing in Golden State.
  • There’s still no timeline for the return of Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., who has missed eight straight games with a left heel injury, head coach Michael Malone said on Thursday. According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), a TNT report suggested Porter could be back within a week, but Malone said no target date has been conveyed to him.
  • Spurs rookie Blake Wesley, making his way back from an MCL tear, will likely have a stint with the Austin Spurs in the G League before he returns to the NBA team, head coach Gregg Popovich said on Thursday (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News). Popovich added that Wesley is getting close.
  • Kings guard Terence Davis had hoped to return on Wednesday after missing just one game due to a lower back issue, but he aggravated the injury in practice on Tuesday and is now at risk of missing additional time, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “It’s frustrating because all I want to do is play basketball,” Davis said.

Injury Notes: MPJ, Hyland, Oladipo, Pelicans, Clippers, Holmgren

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (left heel contusion) will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, but Denver will get some reinforcements vs. Houston with Bones Hyland (non-COVID illness) set to make his return following a three-game absence, per Harrison Wind or DNVR Sports (Twitter links).

Hyland last played on November 22 and was hampered by his illness on that night, logging just nine minutes. The Nuggets guard said today that he “couldn’t breathe on the floor” during that game, but is “feeling great” now, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Here are a few more health-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo practiced with the team on Tuesday, but there wasn’t any contact during that session and he won’t play on the current road trip, which runs through next Monday, head coach Erik Spoelstra said today (link via Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel). While Oladipo hasn’t played yet this season due to left knee tendinosis, it sounds like he’s making progress toward a return.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but will remain sidelined on Wednesday as he attempts to get back into game shape, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. New Orleans did get some good news on Larry Nance Jr. — he’ll be available after missing Monday’s game with a right shoulder injury.
  • Still without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Luke Kennard, the Clippers added Norman Powell to their injury report for Wednesday’s game in Utah due to a left groin strain. Powell is doubtful to play, says Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Thunder big man Chet Holmgren will undergo a follow-up procedure to remove the “hardware” in his right foot from his previous surgery, a team spokesperson tells Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The procedure had been planned and is a sign that Holmgren is making progress, Mussatto adds.

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: Markkanen, Porter, Cancar, Pokusevski, Dort

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen hasn’t missed a game during his breakout season. That could change on Monday. Markkanen is listed as questionable to play against Chicago due to a right knee contusion.

Markkanen has been a find for the Jazz, averaging 21.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game after being acquired in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster with Cleveland.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is listed as doubtful to play on Monday due to a left heel contusion, the team tweets. “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,” coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Porter has already missed the last two games.
  • Vlatko Cancar is making a case for a Nuggets rotation spot with his play at both ends of the floor, Singer writes in a separate story. Cancar is averaging 11.8 points in 18.5 minutes over the past four games. “Sometimes I can score 20 points, sometimes I can score two points,” he said. “As long as I’m doing the right things on the court to help my team win, I think that’s most important.”
  • Starters Aleksej Pokusevski and Luguentz Dort felt the wrath of Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault in the team’s loss to Houston on Saturday. Pokusevski played just nine minutes and Dort saw a season-low 14 minutes of action, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. “I just thought our overall team energy wasn’t where it needed to be, especially to start the game,” Daigneault said. “When that happens, we have a lot of guys that we want to play. I use those opportunities to try to get different guys out there.”