Monte Morris

Northwest Notes: Noel, Morris, Lillard, Dozier

Backup Thunder center Nerlens Noel missed the squad’s final scrimmage ahead of the NBA season restart in Orlando after accidentally not taking his daily COVID-19 test, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. The Thunder would go on to win that scrimmage, 131-120, against the Trail Blazers. Any player who misses a daily coronavirus test is required to quarantine in his hotel for at least a day before rejoining his team.

Noel signed a new one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Thunder last summer. He has proved to be a useful rotation addition for the club, averaging 7.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.0 APG in 55 games. The Thunder will play their first game of the league’s restart on Saturday against the Jazz.

Here are more notes from around the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris notes that he was entirely asymptomatic while testing positive for the coronavirus, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I never felt any kind of way in terms of symptoms,” he said. “I felt fine.”
  • All-NBA Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will play in the team’s first restart game on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. Lillard missed the team’s final two scrimmage games against the Raptors and Thunder with a sore left foot. “I was able to do everything [normally],” he said after a private 45-minute solo workout Wednesday. “I feel fine. I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
  • Nuggets bench guard P.J. Dozier cleared his quarantine this morning, according to The Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter link). Singer notes that, with Dozier’s new availability, every non-injured Nuggets player can now suit up for seeding games. Dozier arrived in Orlando for the season restart on July 28.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz, Wolves

The Nuggets have been one of the most short-handed teams at the NBA’s campus so far, having been limited to just eight players in each of their first two scrimmages this summer. However, reinforcements are on the way for Monday’s game against Orlando.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters this afternoon that Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Keita Bates-Diop will all be available to play in tonight’s game, increasing the team’s roster count to 12 (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of The Athletic).

While he won’t be active tonight, Nuggets guard Monte Morris moved one step closer to getting back on the court as well, having cleared quarantine, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets. He seems likely to be ready by the time Denver plays its first seeding game vs. Miami on Saturday.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest items…

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s scrimmage against Toronto due to inflammation in his left foot, but head coach Terry Stotts said the club doesn’t expect it to be “a long-term thing,” writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a deep dive into the Jazz‘s ability to retain both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert long term, exploring the odds of the team doing so and speculating about what their contracts might look like.
  • University of Denver guard Ade Murkey, a Minnesota native, has interviewed with his hometown Timberwolves during the pre-draft process, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Murkey averaged 18.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .481/.400/.731 shooting line as a senior.

Morris, Bates-Diop Joining Nuggets In Orlando

Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris is scheduled to arrive at the NBA’s Disney World campus on Friday, per Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link). Andrews went on to note that deep-bench forward Keita Bates-Diop touched down in Orlando for the league’s season restart on Thursday.

The reason for either player’s delay in joining the Nuggets has not been provided. They’ll both be required to quarantine and take a physical, as well as testing negative for COVID-19 for two straight days, before joining their squad for team practices.

Morris was previously rumored to be missing from the Orlando campus, having not been spotted in team photographs or videos at all since the team touched down earlier this month.

Morris had developed into being an integral part of the Nuggets’ rotation during 2019/20. The 6’2″ third-year guard out of Iowa State logged averages of 8.4 PPG, 3.5 APG and 1.7 RPG in 21.6 MPG across 65 games for Denver. He connected on 37.5% of his 2.2 three-point looks and 82.3% of his free throw attempts.

At 43-22, the Nuggets are the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Their first seeding game during the NBA’s season restart is scheduled for Saturday, August 1 against the Heat.

The 6’8″ Bates-Diop, the No. 48 pick out of OSU in 2018, appeared in just two games for Denver this year prior to the suspension of the season, after being traded to the team from the Timberwolves in a larger deal. The Nuggets occasionally sent Bates-Diop to the G League’s Windy City Bulls to accrue in-game reps.

Nuggets Missing Multiple Players In Orlando

In addition to waiting on star center Nikola Jokic to arrive at the Walt Disney World campus from Serbia, the Nuggets are also currently missing a few other players, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). League sources tell Haynes that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., and Torrey Craig haven’t made the trip to Disney.

Haynes’ report doesn’t include any additional info, so it’s not clear if Harris, Porter, and Craig are set to arrive soon, or if there’s a possibility that any of them might end up not reporting at all. There’s also no word on whether the absences are related to the coronavirus.

Jokic’s trip to Florida was delayed by the fact that he tested positive for COVID-19 in his home country of Serbia. Before joining the Nuggets at the Disney campus, he had to be medically cleared and get a flight to the United States. Head coach Michael Malone said last week that he expected Jokic to arrive within a few days.

According to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link), guard Monte Morris also hasn’t been spotted in photos or videos since the team reported to Orlando last week, so it’s possible Morris isn’t there yet either, though that’s unconfirmed.

Even if all of the Nuggets’ missing players eventually arrive at Disney, they’ll have to go through a brief quarantine period before being cleared to participate in practices, so they could have a very abridged ramp-up period — Denver’s season is set to resume on August 1, just 19 days from now.

Still, with a comfortable hold on a playoff spot, the Nuggets could end up focusing on getting to full strength by the time the postseason begins rather than going all-out during the seeding games.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Jazz, Morris, J. Johnson

Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who recorded the NBA’s first positive test for COVID-19, still hasn’t fully recovered from the virus. Gobert, whose test results sparked the league-wide shutdown, describes his symptoms in an interview with L’Equip (translation provided by BasketUSA).

The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%,” Gobert said. “I can smell the smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”

Gobert is eager to start playing again, saying he hasn’t been part of a five-on-five game since the hiatus began. He has been boxing, swimming and running in the mountains, but had a physical reaction last month that he said felt like “ants in my toes.” Gobert also talked about shouldering the blame for the shutdown.

The NBA was waiting for a first case to stop the championship, it fell on me!” he said. “I became the image of the coronavirus for the Americans, the domino that triggered the end of the season, but it was not I who brought the virus to the United States. ”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz will bring a fully healthy team to Orlando, except for Bojan Bogdanovic, who had surgery on his right wrist last month, coach Quin Snyder tells Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Snyder also expressed support for his players who are advocating for social justice, such as Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris has used the frustration of sliding in the 2017 draft as incentive to prove he belongs in the NBA, writes Steve Kosmider of the Athletic. Morris was projected as a first-rounder in some circles, but went to Denver with the 51st pick and had to work his way up from a two-way contract. “I was really mad about it,” Morris recalled. “Guys I dominated in college on multiple occasions were getting picked ahead of me. I got hurt during the draft process. I pulled my quad at the Laker workout, which was like my third workout. I still had about 15 workouts to go. I feel like if I had did them I would have moved up. I only worked out for three teams so that may have hurt me, but I still think my resume, doing what I did at Iowa State, should have had me going higher.”
  • James Johnson is certain to exercise his $16MM option and remain with the Timberwolves next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Johnson provides a veteran presence on a young team and is a vocal leader in the locker room.

Nuggets Notes: Craig, Morris, Porter Jr., Booth

Torrey Craig has established himself as a menace defensively but the Nuggets still have a tough decision regarding the swingman, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post explains. Craig is headed to restricted free agency and his playing time this season fluctuated due to his offensive limitations. However, Craig had some big moments as the season wore on and he’s a valuable reserve due to his pesky style, Singer adds. The team can make him a restricted FA by extending a $2.5MM qualifying offer.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Backup point guard Monte Morris has emerged as a key locker room voice, according to Singer. Morris is candid with the media and refuses to accept excuses such as injuries or absences during losses. Morris, who has a non-guaranteed $1.7MM contract next season, contributed on the court with his solid assist-to-turnover ratio and savvy decision making, Singer adds.
  • Michael Porter Jr. saw wild fluctuations in his playing time but the Nuggets haven’t lost any confidence in the rookie forward, who sat out the 2018/19 season due to back surgery, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post writes. Coach Michael Malone said Porter got frustrated at times and was bothered by an ankle injury prior to the hiatus but can still become a “great” player. “He’s shown all of us what he can do,” Malone said. “Now, the challenge is to help him do that on a more consistent basis.”
  • The team has reportedly chosen Calvin Booth as its GM and Malone wholeheartedly endorses the promotion, Fredrickson reports in the same story. “He works his butt off, is very detailed and organized. … I have complete confidence in Calvin Booth if he’s selected,” Malone said. “I would be shocked if he wasn’t.”

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.

Western Notes: Morant, Harrell, Hood, Gasol, Murray

The Grizzlies are playing Ja Morant limited minutes and they plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Morant played fewer than 30 minutes in four of his first five games, with the exception coming during an overtime game. Coach Taylor Jenkins hopes the approach will keep the second overall pick and anointed floor leader fresh during the 82-game schedule. “I’ve always been a big believer, you start playing in the mid-30s (minutes per game) you kind of wear down,” Jenkins said. “Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Forward Montrezl Harrell continues to prove his worth to the Clippers, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times writes. Harrell, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, is averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.9 RPG to help the team weather the injury absence of Paul George. After acquiring him in the Chris Paul deal with Houston, the Clippers were so unsure about Harrell that they considered waiving him during the summer of 2017, according to Elliott.
  • Trail Blazers guard Rodney Hood suffered a knee injury on Saturday but he didn’t sustain any structural damage, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports. The team’s medical staff determined that Hood has a bone bruise. Hood re-signed with Portland this offseason on a two-year, $11.7MM contract. Veteran center Pau Gasol, who joined Portland on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, has ramped up his workouts as he continues rehab from offseason foot surgery. Gasol did a series of shooting drills after a shootaround last week.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has become a more vocal leader this season and his teammates appreciate the change, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic relays. “I think it’s big-time,” fellow guard Monte Morris said. “If he’s going to be our starting point guard, everybody’s going to look for him to lead us.”
  • Nikola Jokic‘s numbers are down and Nuggets coach Michael Malone says his center must get more aggressive, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. He’s averaging 15.8 PPG, 4.3 PPG down from his average last season, while taking 2.6 fewer shots per game. “I don’t think he is, in terms of people thinking he’s checked out or not playing hard,” Malone said. “I don’t see that as the case at all. … I just have to make sure I keep on reminding him of how important he is to us, being aggressive and setting the tone.” Jokic is in the second year of a five-year, $147.7MM contract.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Bird, Westbrook, Presti

Keeping his young core group together is enough to make the Nuggets a prime Western Conference contender, general manager Arturas Karnisovas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” (hat tip to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer).

“Definitely we’re banking on our continuity,” the Nuggets GM said. “A lot of teams that made changes and added huge pieces and stars, they’re still dealing in hypotheticals. We’ve watched this group show us last year, take us to a 54-28 season, having the best home record, 34-7, so this group is (established) and they’re still the third youngest group in the league.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Longtime WNBA star Sue Bird has a wide variety of duties as a basketball operations associate with the Nuggets during her league’s offseason, as Alex Coffey of The Athletic details. She observes games and practices, sits in on front office meetings, watches film and helps scouting college and international players. She also provided advice to point guard Monte Morris, which he found insightful. “She helped me stay encouraged when things were getting tough,” Morris said. “She would tell me things she noticed in how I played. It wasn’t always positive. There were times when she was like, ‘This guy’s guarding you this way. Try to counter him this way.’ Just little things like that.”
  • The Thunder have lost superstars before but the trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets has left a void, as Brett Dawson of The Athletic details. The bond between Westbrook and the city was stronger than any other star player.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti remains hopeful the team can be fairly competitive next season despite trading away Westbrook and Paul George, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. “It’s going to be a different iteration of Thunder team than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Presti said. “The way we were able to pivot has given us the opportunity to have a much brighter future going forward and still have a team coming back this season that we feel good about.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Butler, Morris, Sefolosha

The Timberwolves‘ roller coaster season took a new turn on Friday, with the team suffering a 30-point loss to the Bucks in front of their home crowd. Minnesota has been rocked by trade rumors centered around Jimmy Butler, who remains on the roster nearly six weeks after his trade request went public.

Despite the constant, sometimes nagging attention from media and fans, Wolves players have tried to keep their focus on handling business and business only.

“Me personally, I don’t care,” Gorgui Dieng said, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If they trade Jimmy, then they’re trading him. If they keep him here, then they keep him here. It’s not my decision, it’s not something that I have a voice [in]. Most important is just what’s important for the team, and what I can do to help this basketball team.”

The Wolves have opened the 2018/19 season with a 2-4 record, and discussions to trade Butler are ongoing. Butler scored just four points on 2-11 shooting in Friday’s game.

“No team is ever going to go through a perfect season unscathed,” Taj Gibson said. “Everybody has a story at the end of the year sometimes of triumph and sometimes falling down. We’re in a crazy situation, kind of difficult, but we have to push through it. That’s why we’re professionals.

“We have to go into every practice, into every game with a smile on your face and push yourself.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Andrew Wiggins discussed his relationship with Jimmy Butler last week, stating that he and Butler “have always been cool,” according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Wiggins also claims the infamous practice where Butler stormed the court and took on the Wolves’ starters was overblown (Twitter link).
  • The emergence of second-year player Monte Morris has greatly helped the Nuggets, who have jumped out to a 4-1 record this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post contends. Morris is averaging 9.4 points in five games, providing depth in the backcourt with Isaiah Thomas still out to injury.
  • Jazz guard Thabo Sefolosha will be available to play Sunday against the Mavericks, according to Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. Sefolosha served a five-game suspension this season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy in April, and played just 38 games with the team last year.