Monte Morris

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.

Jamal Murray Undergoes Reconstructive ACL Surgery

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray underwent surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the team announced in a press release.

The Nuggets did not release a timetable for his recovery, though the nature of the surgery suggests he’ll miss time next season as well.

Murray suffered the non-contact injury during the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Golden State on April 12. His knee buckled as he attempted to take off for a layup and he immediately fell to the floor in obvious pain, pounding the court with his hand. He eventually refused the wheelchair that had been brought onto the floor and hopped to the locker room without putting any weight on the leg.

The injury is a devastating blow to Denver’s championship aspirations. A year ago, Murray was Denver’s leading scorer in the playoffs, with 26.5 PPG on a scorching .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 games (39.6 MPG). He was averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.8 APG and 4.0 RPG this season.

The Nuggets will rely on Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris in Murray’s absence. They’ve won their first three games since Murray’s season-ending injury.

Nuggets Notes: Frontcourt, Murray, Daniels, Morris

A pair of trades at the deadline have left the Nuggets with a logjam in the frontcourt and not enough playing time to go around, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The team added Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee to a talented group that already had Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. seeing heavy minutes.

“That’s my biggest challenge right now,” coach Michael Malone said. “You have Paul Millsap, who’s been a starter here for four years. You have JaVale McGee, who we traded for at the trade deadline, and you have JaMychal Green, who we pursued heavily in free agency. All those guys bring value to our team, but it is truly impossible to play all three.”

Malone indicated he plans to rest Millsap on the second night of back-to-backs, which applies to five of the 20 games the Nuggets have remaining. Singer believes the odd man out could be Green, who signed with the team in November and has a $7.56MM player option for next season.

“They’ve all been very professional, I have to say that,” Malone said. “It’s not easy. I don’t think any of them love the situation, but what trumps everything is this. We’re trying to win a championship. We need all 15 guys in that locker room. It’s about sacrificing and investing in each other if that is truly our goal. The guys have been tremendous with their professionalism. As long I communicate with them, I think they’ll continue to be that way.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jamal Murray has missed the past three games with a sore right knee, but Malone isn’t worried that it will be a long-term issue, Singer tweets. Murray is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Celtics.
  • The Nuggets are looking at a pair of NBA veterans to fill the roster spot they opened this week by waiving Gary Clark. Shooting guard Troy Daniels, who signed with Denver last March, is a name that Singer says he has heard floated repeatedly (Twitter link). Daniels, 29, appeared in six games for the Nuggets last season, with five coming at the restart in Orlando. He also saw limited action in six playoff games. Denver is also considering 35-year-old shooting specialist Gerald Green, Singer adds (via Twitter). Green was in training camp with the Rockets in December, but was waived before the season began. He missed all of last season with a broken foot.
  • After a brief stay in the starting lineup, Monte Morris asked Malone if he could return to a reserve role, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Morris has started 11 of the 40 games he has played this season, but is more comfortable coming off the bench.

And-Ones: MVP Race, Trade Assets, Payton II, Morris

Injuries expected to sideline LeBron James and Joel Embiid for multiple weeks have shaken up the chase for the Most Valuable Player award. Nikola Jokic is now the frontrunner to win the wide-open race for the award, according to Chris Sheridan of Basketball News. Betting sites FanDuel, Draft Kings, BetMGM and PointsBet.com have made the Nuggets’ All-Star big man the favorite.

We have more tidbits from around the basketball world:

  • The Thunder possess a boatload of first-round picks, some veterans with trade appeal and plenty of trade exceptions. That’s why Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report ranks Oklahoma City No. 1 in terms of trade assets. Pincus lists each team by the value of its trade assets.
  • Raptors 905 guard Gary Payton II has been named the G League Defensive Player of the Year, according to a G League press release. The league’s head coaches and GMs voted on the award. Payton II led the league in steals per game (2.54), including nine games with two or more steals.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris has committed to the Nigeria national team for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets. Mike Brown will coach the team, which also includes NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie, Chimezie Metu and Ekpe Udoh.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Morris, Rosas, Clarkson

Year-to-year continuity appears to be rewarding the Jazz early on in the 2020/21 season, according to Ariel Pacheco of Basketball Insiders.

Led by All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have benefited from an improved defense and long-range marksmanship. The club ranks in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rating, Pacheco notes. Mitchell, too, appears to have developed his ball-handling abilities.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Newly-extended Nuggets guard Monte Morris has proven himself to be a steal for Denver thus far, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Morris has helped stabilize the team’s bench, posting a career high in scoring (11.5 PPG), and shooting an excellent 51.7% from the floor overall. “I’m going out there focused, playing for other guys, with a clear head,” Morris said. “The contract definitely got me at peace.”
  • Timberwolves team president Gersson Rosas expressed his frustration at the general state of the team, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This was another growing and developing year,” Rosas told Hine. “But at the same time, we’re not up to our capabilities and that’s to be competitive. … It starts with me and my staff. It starts with coach [Ryan Saunders] and his staff, and it starts with the players.” The Wolves are 4-12 this season, the worst record in the West.
  • After signing a four-year deal in the offseason with Utah, Jazz reserve guard Jordan Clarkson is making an early case for the Sixth Man of the Year award honors with his inspired play of late, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “Definitely it was one of my goals going into this year, to go get that and play that role,” Clarkson says.