Monte Morris

COVID-19 Updates: Caruso, Hill, Collins, Morris, Rivers, More

One of the few players not affected by a stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols last month, Bulls guard Alex Caruso has now entered the protocols, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Caruso, who has missed Chicago’s last six games due to a sprained foot, appeared to be nearing a return. If he contracted COVID-19, his return will obviously be delayed, but it will give his foot more time to get back to 100%.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the league:

  • Hawks big man John Collins has exited the COVID-19 protocols and is expected to meet the team in Los Angeles, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Atlanta faces the Lakers in L.A. on Friday and the Clippers on Saturday. Meanwhile, hardship addition Cameron Oliver has entered the protocols for Atlanta, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Unless he returned a false positive or inconclusive test result, Oliver almost certainly won’t clear the protocols before his deal expires on Friday night.
  • Bucks guard George Hill is the latest Milwaukee player to enter the health and safety protocols, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The team now has a league-high six players in the protocols, though Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Jordan Nwora, and Semi Ojeleye are being listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Toronto, which suggests they’re on the verge of exiting.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris confirmed on his Twitter account that he’s out of the health and safety protocols and prepared to return to action. Morris is still listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest vs. Utah, but it sound like he expects to play.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is out of the protocols and will resume his duties on Wednesday vs. Orlando, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Thunder rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has cleared the protocols and is being listed as available for Wednesday’s game in Minnesota, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City no longer has any players in the protocols.
  • Our health and safety protocols tracker, which is updated multiple times daily, can be found right here.

Seven Pistons Exit Protocols, Nuggets’ Monte Morris Enters

Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Josh Jackson, Cory Joseph, Saben Lee, Trey Lyles, and Rodney McGruder have all exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the Pistons, James Edwards III of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

All seven players are listed as out for Saturday’s contest against San Antonio due to reconditioning. The Pistons’ next game after Saturday will be Monday against the Bucks, when several of the players could return to action. Second-year big man Isaiah Stewart is now the lone player still in the protocols for Detroit.

In other COVID-related news, Nuggets point guard Monte Morris has become the fourth Denver player to enter the protocols in the past two days, joining Jeff Green, Bones Hyland, and Zeke Nnaji, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Morris has started all 32 of his games this season (30 MPG), averaging 12.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 4.3 APG on a .479/.380/.783 shooting line.

The Nuggets signed Davon Reed to his third 10-day hardship contract Thursday, and reportedly plan to sign Rayjon Tucker to a deal as well.

Injury Notes: Nuggets, Gay, Claxton, Adebayo

Nuggets guard Austin Rivers says forward Michael Porter Jr. was playing through back pain the entire season before being sidelined due to the issue, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

He’s 23 years old,” Rivers said following Monday night’s loss to Dallas. “He’s just gotta take care of himself and get himself right physically and that way mentally he can come to the court playing the way that we know he can play. He’s playing hurt this whole season. It’s hard to do that. Hopefully he comes back soon because he’s a huge part of our team.”

Singer notes that the back problems could explain Porter Jr.’s slow start to the season. The Nuggets have been vague on updating MPJ’s status after saying he’ll be out for the “foreseeable future.”

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • In a separate article, Singer writes that Nuggets guard Monte Morris has been playing through a nagging leg injury this season, but Morris says it’s finally starting to improve. “Today was the first time I was able to do (player development) probably since the second Memphis game (on Nov. 3), so I haven’t even been able to do that,” Morris said. “I’ve been getting treatment and just playing in games. I’m starting to feel better. Been able to play without pain and stuff like that.” Singer also notes that Will Barton, who’s been dealing with back soreness, has been improving, but is listed is doubtful for Thursday’s game, while Zeke Nnaji is out with a sprained ankle.
  • Rudy Gay could make his season debut Thursday for the Jazz. The team listed him as probable on its injury report tonight (Twitter link). Gay has been recovering from offseason heel surgery.
  • It doesn’t sound like Nicolas Claxton will be returning to the Nets‘ lineup anytime soon, tweets Brian Lewis of the New York Post. According to Lewis, coach Steve Nash said that, “Nic (Claxton) has a ways to go. He’s really got to work on his conditioning.” Claxton had been dealing with a non-COVID illness.
  • Heat star Bam Adebayo is getting a night off for injury maintenance on a bruised knee, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Per Chiang, coach Erik Spoelstra says that it will be “really beneficial” for Bam to get rest and treatment in order to reduce swelling in the knee.

Northwest Notes: Favors, Morris, Billups, Snell

Derrick Favors didn’t expect to be traded to the rebuilding Thunder, but he’s trying to make the most of the situation, as he told Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“At first, I was kind of confused,” Favors said. “I was caught off guard. But, I knew it was nothing personal. When I reflected on it from a business standpoint, I knew that something had to happen. I accepted it, and I’m in a great place.”

Favors, who scored just four points while grabbing nine rebounds against his former team on Wednesday, was a member of the Jazz for over eight years from 2011-19 before being traded to New Orleans. He re-signed with Utah in 2020 and then was traded again this offseason. The Thunder were motivated to make the deal with the Jazz by adding another future first-rounder to their stockpile of picks.

Since he hadn’t played a road game in Utah since first leaving the team in 2019, the Jazz put together a tribute video for Favors that was displayed during the first half, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • As Jamal Murray works his way back from a devastating knee injury, Monte Morris is embracing his current role as the lead point guard, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post writes. “I’m not trying to be Jamal Murray. I’m just trying to be the best fashion of myself that I can be and help the team in any way,” Morris said. “That’s why there’s not a lot of pressure.” He had nine points and three assists in the Nuggets’ opening-night victory over Phoenix.
  • First-year coach Chauncey Billups says he’s not worried about the possibility of the Trail Blazers getting off to a slow start, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website writes. Billups is more concerned about the team’s growth under a new system. “This team has gotten to the playoffs forever and then those habits end up coming into play and it derails you from trying to extend your season,” he said. “So I’m more concerned with how we can change a lot of things that are really important for us on both ends of the ball. And when we actually do that, I just know how good of a team we can be.”
  • Trail Blazers wing Tony Snell suffered a minor setback as he recovers from a right foot sprain that sidelined during the preseason, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. “I think he’ll be on the court hopefully before two weeks but you can’t throw a guy back out there in a game,” Billups said. Snell joined the team in free agency on a one-year contract.

Northwest Notes: Morris, MPJ, Powell, Beverley

The Nuggets haven’t made it official yet, but it certainly appears that Monte Morris is on track to claim a spot in the team’s starting lineup while Jamal Murray recovers from ACL surgery. As Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes, head coach Michael Malone said this week that he’s “extremely confident” in Morris’ ability and wants the 26-year-old point guard to get comfortable running the first-team offense.

“It’s just a matter of (Morris) playing with aggression and confidence, playing with that attack mindset and being more vocal on the floor to run his team,” Malone said. “And that’s not easy, especially when you’re playing with the reigning MVP. And I tell him sometimes, ‘Hey, tell Nikola (Jokic) where you want him.’ I say, ‘That’s your job as a point guard,’ and I think he’s embracing that.”

There’s no set timeline for Murray’s return, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back on the court until at least the spring, so assuming Morris is named the Nuggets’ starting point guard, it’s a job he could hang onto all season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video) provides some more details on how Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. can bump the $12MM partial guarantee on the fifth year of his new contract extension to a full $39.3MM guarantee. Porter could get that full guarantee if he earns two All-Stars berths or a single All-NBA or All-Defense nod before then. He’d also get the full fifth-year amount if Denver wins a title and he meets certain games-played thresholds during that season.
  • After initially arriving in Portland with less than two months left in the 2021/22 season, Norman Powell said this week that life with the Trail Blazers is “starting to feel natural and normal to me,” per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Like some of his teammates, Powell is excited about how new head coach Chauncey Billups plans to use him. “It’s only the first two days but I’m definitely feeling included on the offensive side of the ball,” Powell said.
  • New Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley said on Thursday that when he and the Clippers couldn’t agree on an extension this summer, the team asked him where else he might like to play and he put Minnesota “in my top three, my top two I believe” (link via Chris Hine of The Star Tribune). While it’s a little hard to believe Beverley was so bullish on the idea of joining a small-market team that has made the postseason just once since 2004, he expressed enthusiasm this week about being a mentor to the Wolves’ young guards and bringing some “intensity” to the team.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Morris, Offseason

Nikola Jokic isn’t going to make any predictions or boasts about how the Nuggets will do this season, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post writes. The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player says he’s not sure if they’re good enough to win a championship.

“If everybody buys in and everybody plays the right way, there is a chance, of course,” Jokic said. “Do we have enough talent? I don’t know. Are we the best team in the NBA? I don’t know. So we will see. The season is going to show us everything. As for goals for the season? You know, I don’t make any goals for the season. Of course, everybody says championship, (but) that’s what they were saying the last seven years. I’m not going to say championship, that’s just something in our imagination or something we want to do.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Monte Morris said he’s been nagged by knee tendinitis throughout his NBA career, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Morris underwent focused rehabilitation and medical management for approximately 10 weeks this summer and feels like he’ll regain his explosiveness. “For me to take this step where I want to go, on my end, personally, without that being done to it, it was going to be very tough,” Morris said. “It’s something I’ve been dealing with my whole career.”
  • The Nuggets’ front office received a C grade from The Athletic’s Zach Harper in his offseason evaluation. The team didn’t significantly improve at any position and it needs to find more of a defensive identity with this core group, in Harper’s estimation.
  • In case you missed it, the team signed forward Petr Cornelie to a two-way contract over the weekend. Get the details here.

Olympic Notes: Nigeria, Morris, Nnaji, Team USA

The Nigerian national team, having originally invited more than 40 players to its training camp, has trimmed its roster to 15 players, according to an announcement earlier in the week (Twitter link).

Three more cuts will be required to set the official roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but it appears there will be no shortage of NBA players on the 12-man squad. Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, Miye Oni, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, Chimezie Metu, Jahlil Okafor, and Gabe Vincent remain in the mix for the final roster.

One notable player missing from that list is Monte Morris. According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), the Nuggets guard has been bothered by a nagging knee injury and wants to focus on getting fully healthy for the 2021/22 season. He’s sitting out of the Olympics for precautionary reasons.

Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji received consideration for Team Nigeria as well, according to Singer (Twitter link), but the 2020 first-rounder decided to focus on individual development this season. Nnaji has interest in representing Nigeria in future international competitions, Singer notes.

Here’s more on the Tokyo games:

  • Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a captain for the U.S. squad (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press). Given his résumé, his veteran status, and his previous international experience, Kevin Durant seems like the most obvious choice, though Draymond Green and Damian Lillard could also be candidates.
  • Asked how likely it is that members of the U.S. Olympic squad will talk during the next month about teaming up in the NBA, Bradley Beal acknowledged that “probably a lot” of those conversations will take place. “Depends on who’s a free agent or not,” Beal said (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). “But for the most part, we can’t mix that in right now. We’re focused on one goal at hand, and that’s bringing back a gold medal. Granted, we all have our respective, individual goals and talents once this is done. We can address those issues then.”
  • Organizers confirmed on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators due to a recent increase in coronavirus cases in the area. Ayano Shimizu of Kyodo News has the full story.

Olympic Notes: Spain, Simmons, Nigeria, Turkey, Garland

Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has represented Spain in four Olympic tournaments so far, remains on track to be part of the team in Tokyo, per an Associated Press report. Gasol was one of 18 players included on Spain’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo games, joining his brother – Lakers center Marc Gasol – and Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez, Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez, and projected first-round pick Usman Garuba are among the other notable names on Spain’s preliminary roster, according to The Associated Press.

Here’s more on the Tokyo Olympics:

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Morris, Porter, Barton, Dozier

In an interview with Serbian television that aired this week, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic expressed a desire to spend his entire career in Denver (Twitter link). The interview was filmed before the start of the season, but Jokic’s connection to the city and the team have likely gotten stronger in the wake of his MVP-caliber season.

Jokic has two more years on his current contract, paying him $31.58MM next season and $33.62MM in 2022/23. He will be 28 when he reaches free agency, and the Nuggets will almost certainly make a max extension offer before then, especially with Jamal Murray having the only significant salary beyond those years.

“When I came to Denver I said that I would love to be Denver’s Tim Duncan, because he played his whole career in San Antonio,” Jokic told RTS. “God willing, I would love to play my whole career in Denver.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Damian Lillard is putting up historic numbers, but the Nuggets hold the lead in their series with the Trail Blazers because Austin Rivers and Monte Morris have been able to neutralize CJ McCollum, writes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. Morris, who got a three-year, $27MM extension in December after starting his career as a two-way player, said he has come a long way since his first postseason experience in 2019.“I had nightmares before every playoff game, my first playoffs,” he said. “That’s why I bust my (backside) and work hard, whether I’m here or off the Ball Arena premises. Just because I don’t ever want that feeling again. It was a hard feeling. A hard pill to swallow.”
  • With Murray unavailable for the playoffs, Denver needs more production from Michael Porter Jr., and he able to deliver in Game 5, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Using his size advantage over the Portland wings, Porter shook off two sub-par games and posted 26 points and 12 rebounds in the double-overtime victory. “Michael’s way too talented of a player to have two games like that, back-to-back,” coach Michael Malone said. “I just told him how proud I was of him, and he goes, ‘Hey coach, I gotta do that every night.’ And he’s right, he does. And he understands that.”
  • Will Barton and PJ Dozier will both miss Thursday’s Game 6, Singer tweets. Barton is dealing with a strained right hamstring and hasn’t played since April 23. Dozier is sidelined with a right adductor strain.

Northwest Notes: Morris, Jazz Depth, SGA, Carmelo

Nuggets reserve point guard Monte Morris is nearing his return to the floor, tweets Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Morris is “definitely getting closer” to suiting up again for Denver, head coach Michael Malone said.

Nevertheless, Singer notes that Morris will remain sidelined for the next few games as he continues to rehabilitate from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since April 16.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • With Jazz All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley both absent, Utah has been able to showcase the depth of its roster, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Wing Bojan Bogdanović has become a prime scoring option on the perimeter for Utah, and even greener players like two-way rookie point guard Trent Forrest have stepped up to help the Jazz remain very much in the race for the West’s top seed.
  • Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has revealed that star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is still grappling with a “significant” plantar fascia tear, tweets Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “It’s not something that you should really mess around with,” Daigneault said. “If we got aggressive with him, it could compromise him long term, which makes no sense for us for a player that is as important to our franchise as he is.” Gilgeous-Alexander has been sidelined since March with the injury.
  • After scoring 14 points in a 123-114 loss to the Hawks, veteran Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony has cracked the NBA’s all-time top 10 scoring list, writes Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com“Top 10 in anything of all-time is a special moment, so I don’t want to take this moment for granted,” said Anthony. “I don’t want to downplay it, I’m excited about it, I’m blessed to be able to accomplish this in year 18. I think that’s what people should look at, the fact that I’m in my 18th season.” Anthony has been a productive offensive contributor during his second season with Portland. He will be a free agent this summer.