Nikola Jokic

Nuggets Notes: Cousins, Jokic, Campazzo, Barton

It has been six days since word broke that the Nuggets intended to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract. Denver has yet to officially move forward with that deal, but according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), the club still has “significant interest” in adding the veteran center. Head coach Michael Malone discussed the possibility during a radio appearance today without making a commitment one way or the other.

“If (Cousins) becomes a member of this Nugget team at some point, obviously you’d be adding a terrific player,” Malone said (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of DVNR Sports). “I think his short stint in Milwaukee is proof of that. He went to the defending world champions and played lights out.”

For the moment, the Nuggets may not have a clear path to adding Cousins. They don’t have any players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, so they’re ineligible to sign a player to a 10-day contract using a COVID-related hardship exception. They also don’t have an opening on their 15-man roster.

Denver does qualify for an injury-related hardship exception, since Jamal Murray, Michael Porter, PJ Dozier, and Vlatko Cancar are all sidelined with long-term injuries. But James Ennis is already under contract on a 10-day hardship deal, so the Nuggets likely aren’t eligible to add another player until Ennis’ pact expires next Wednesday night.

As we keep an eye on the Nuggets’ roster situation and monitor their plans for Cousins, here are a few more notes out of Denver:

  • Michael Malone believes Nikola Jokic doesn’t get the credit deserves for his ongoing MVP-caliber play, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. “I think he is one of the more disrespected reigning MVPs that I can think of in terms of the attention,” Malone said this week, adding that Jokic’s lack of highlight-reel plays may undersell his impact. “… I mean, Nikola Jokic is not sexy. He’s just not. There is nothing about Nikola … his wife might disagree. But if you are a true student of the game, a coach, someone that loves the game being played the right way, then you appreciate him at the level that he should be appreciated at.”
  • Addressing what he called “nonsensical rumors,” Octagon Basketball Europe CEO David Carro Funes, who represents Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo, said (via Twitter) that his client fully intends to remain in the NBA going forward. Campazzo, who played in Argentina from 2008-14 and Spain from 2014-20, will be a free agent at season’s end. He spoke last month about his commitment to continue playing in the NBA beyond his current contract.
  • Will Barton sustained a scary-looking injury on Thursday when he lost his footing on a drive and banged his head against Jusuf Nurkic‘s knee. Barton remained on the floor for several minutes, but eventually walked to the locker room under his own power and later returned to the bench. He should be OK going forward, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Mitchell, Nuggets, Jokic

Three Timberwolves players took advantage of their expanded roles in the team’s game against the Jazz on Thursday, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and Jake Layman all gave a solid effort, but the team still lost 128-116 without Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards available.

Beasley finished with 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting, while McDaniels (16 points and nine rebounds) and Layman (13 points and seven rebounds) provided respectable contributions. Minnesota struggled to contain Utah’s star players, however, also letting the Jazz shoot 16-of-39 (41%) from deep.

“He’s shooting at a high level from three and getting a lot of good looks and staying really committed to it,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said of Beasley, whose 33 points led all scorers in the game. “There’s no second-guessing his shot. He’s locked in. He’s been really, really good. Mostly it’s just his shot selection is leading to good shots.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest tonight:

Heat Notes: Dedmon, Robinson, Vincent, Rotation, Nuggets Rematch

Veteran center Dewayne Dedmon had trouble finding a standard contract last season before finishing the season with the Heat. He re-signed with the team on a minimum-salary deal over the summer, and he’s making the most of his minutes, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

Coach Erik Spoelstra says Dedmon is an excellent communicator defensively and is ecstatic with his production.

He has been so vital to our team,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a big big, as Pat [Riley] likes to say, and he makes his presence felt. Defensively, he’s one of our best communicators, if not our best communicator. He’s big at the rim. He protects the rim. He gives us a different kind of feel at that center position than Bam. And he has a great knack for the ball — offensive rebounding, sliding into open spots, making himself available so he can finish in the paint. And he has a good touch for a big. We couldn’t be happier with the minutes and productivity he’s giving from that position.”

Miami has been a been a far better team with Dedmon on the court than off — Chiang writes that Dedmon has a team-high plus/minus of plus-99, and advanced stats point to his high-level contributions in limited minutes. The big man says he’s having fun with the Heat, and no matter how many minutes he receives, he’s going to play as hard as he can.

It’s just fun basketball, man,” Dedmon said. “Just come in, give it my all no matter how many minutes I’m going to play. Whether its 10, 15, 20, just play as hard as I can. So just having fun with it.”

Sharpshooter Duncan Robinson says Dedmon’s consistency has been crucial to the team’s success. The Heat are currently 12-7, third in the East.

I think a huge strong suit of Dewayne is you just know what you’re going to get,” Robinson said. “He’s going to communicate, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to be physical, he’s going to set screens, he’s going to be unselfish, he’s going to rebound, he’s going to put pressure on the other team to box out and then also to protect the rim. He’s super consistent and he has definitely, in many games, given us a boost particularly just creating second chances and protecting the rim and that paint.”

It’s an interesting article from Chiang with some more good quotes — it’s worth checking out in full.

Here are some more Heat notes:

  • In an “Ask Ira” mailbag, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wonders whether Robinson, who’s struggled the first quarter of the season, is a fit for a championship-caliber team. He notes that Robinson’s defense is a definite concern, but when he’s making shots, he can be an X-factor for the Heat.
  • In the same piece, Winderman opines that backup Gabe Vincent shouldn’t be shoe-horned into being a primary ball-handler, when his skill set is more in the mold of a shooting guard who is solid defensively.
  • In a separate “Ask Ira” column, Winderman writes that he isn’t concerned with the team’s rotation, which has fluctuated at times beyond the top-eight core of starters Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and reserves Tyler Herro, Dedmon and Markieff Morris. He believes other members of the team will receive minutes based on matchups.
  • Winderman recently asked former NBA executive Stu Jackson about the Heat’s rematch with the Nuggets on Monday night. The last time the team’s faced, there was an altercation between MVP Nikola Jokic and Morris. Morris has been sidelined since the incident with whiplash. Jokic has missed the past six games with an unrelated wrist injury. Jackson says the officials will be on high alert. “In short,” Jackson, now a Big East executive, said, “the officiating crew will be on high alert. Not only because of the matchup between the two of them, but also just the tone of the game, early on, which I suspect the referees will establish a mindset that they’re not going to tolerate any BS. The last thing an official wants to do is have something break out in their game that doesn’t have to do with the game.”

Nikola Jokic Sidelined By Wrist Injury

Reigning league Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic has a right wrist sprain and it’s uncertain when he’ll return, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

The Nuggets’ big man watched the team’s loss to Chicago on Friday with a brace on his wrist. He suffered the injury against Philadelphia on Thursday.

“He’s gotten X-rays, he’s gotten MRI’s, talking to the doctors,” coach Michael Malone said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing at all, but at the same time, I don’t want to put him out there if he can only play with one hand. Unfair to ask him to do that. When he’s ready to play, he’ll play. That could be against Phoenix (Sunday), that could be in a week. There’s no timeline at this point.”

Strategically, the Nuggets played more zone against the Bulls than at any point this season but they were clobbered on the boards. Personnel-wise, they went small and relied on forwards Jeff Green, Aaron Gordon and JaMychal Green to man the interior.

“I’m not sure how long Nikola’s going to be out, but you have options,” Malone said.

PJ Dozier said it’s going to be difficult to play without their star. The Nuggets have already been playing without Michael Porter Jr. most of the month due to a back injury, and Jamal Murray is expected to miss most of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear.

“We play through him. He’s the head of the snake.,” Dozier said of Jokic. “We go as he goes. Having our MVP not on the floor, of course, offensively is going to be an adjustment but defensively as well. He’s communicating to us guards, calling out the coverages.”

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Olshey, Bazley, Jokić

Starting Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale appears to be increasing Utah’s ceiling this season by becoming a bigger offensive threat, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“I’m trying to just take what the defense gives me,” O’Neale said of his revamped offense this season with the Jazz. “I’m trying to find ways to get open, whether I am finishing at the basket or kicking it out for the open three. I’m trying to find the open guy. I don’t want the ball to stick in my hands. Everybody thrives off moving the ball, finding the open guy.”

Though O’Neale is still averaging a fairly modest output of 7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.2 APG, along with an excellent 2.2 SPG, Jones contends that O’Neale’s consistent three-point shooting and his improved cutting away from the ball have made him a player that opposing defenses need to respect. This could improve the Jazz’s outlook in the postseason.

“This is what I’ve been trying to train for in the offseason,” O’Neale said of how he hopes to help the Jazz. “I want to do whatever I have to do for us to win. Whether that’s guarding the best player, or knocking down shots. I’m just trying to not be tired and to play the whole game, if I can.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazersinvestigation into the alleged workplace misconduct of longtime president Neil Olshey could last a few weeks, well beyond the duration initially anticipated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Darius Bazley has looked to learn from 30-year-old veteran center Mike Muscala, the team’s oldest player, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “I don’t know if Mike knows this, but I look up to him,” Bazley said. “Just to see Mike and his readiness, whether he’s playing good or playing bad, he always comes in with the same energy and effort, and today he was rewarded for it.”
  • The league continues to gather information on the on-court fight between All-NBA Nuggets center Nikola Jokić and Heat forward Markieff Morris. Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets that a league announcement on an expected suspension period for Jokić could be announced as late as tomorrow. Denver head coach Michael Malone has indicated that an extended absence for Jokić could open the door for more rotational run for reserve big men Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji, per Sean Keeler of the Denver Post“Maybe some guys like Bol Bol (and) Zeke Nnaji that haven’t had a great chance to play yet are going to have a chance to get out there and play rotational minutes,” Malone said. “But we’ll react once we get that news.” Malone also noted that he would feature forwards Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Aaron Gordon in the post more frequently should Jokić be unavailable tomorrow for the club’s next game against the Pacers.

Nikola Jokic Faces Suspension After Fight

A suspension may be coming for Nuggets center Nikola Jokic after a violent hit on Heat forward Markieff Morris in the late stages of Monday’s game, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

With 2:39 remaining and Denver leading by 17 points, Morris committed a hard intentional foul on Jokic at midcourt. The reigning MVP responded by charging at Morris and hitting him in the back with his right forearm and shoulder. According to Vardon, Morris’ head snapped back and he collapsed to the floor while grabbing his forehead as a fight erupted between the other players on the court.

Miami’s medical team, along with paramedics, spent several minutes checking on Morris before he was able to walk to the locker room with help from teammates. After the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra blasted Jokic for his actions.

“It’s just absolutely uncalled for, and it would have looked a lot different, this whole thing could have been a lot uglier if Markieff was actually facing Jokic,” Spoelstra said. “The fact that he had his back turned, and he made a play like that, blindsiding, it was just a very dangerous play.”

Jokic, who was ejected, admitted that he handled the situation poorly, saying, “It’s a stupid play. I feel bad.” Morris received a Flagrant-2 foul and was also ejected for prompting the incident.

“The contact by Morris was interpreted to be excessive and unnecessary based on the following criteria,” referee Kevin Scott explained. “One, the severity of the contact. Two, whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play. Three, the potential for injury resulting from the contact, and four, the outcome of the contact led to an altercation.”

Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters that he expects to have Jokic available for Wednesday’s game, but admitted that he hadn’t watched a replay of the incident. Vardon considers a suspension to be inevitable.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Wolves, Simmons, Gay, McCollum

With Jamal Murray recovering from an ACL tear and Michael Porter Jr. off to a slow start, the Nuggets are leaning more than ever this season on reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. That’s a problem, in the view of head coach Michael Malone, who says he’d like the team to reduce its reliance on Jokic, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“I told our guys just now, Nikola’s not a good player, (he’s) a great player,” Malone said after a Nuggets loss to Memphis on Wednesday. “But every time he comes out, everything just falls apart. It’s every night. I went to him in the fourth quarter, I called his name, and he looked at me, kind of like, ‘Already?’ And I feel for him. … Nikola’s gonna be worn down by Christmas at this rate.”

The numbers back up Malone’s assertion that “everything just falls apart” when Jokic is out of the game. The Nuggets have +14.5 net rating in Jokic’s 248 minutes so far this season, compared to an abysmal -21.4 net rating in the 136 minutes he hasn’t played. Denver has always played better with Jokic on the court, but the team will need to find a way to at least tread water while he’s resting.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • On a recent episode of his The Scoop podcast, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North stated that it has been a little while since Timberwolves head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta talked to the Sixers about Ben Simmons. “About three-and-a-half, four weeks ago, he did plant the seed with the Philadelphia front office that, ‘Yeah, I’m interested in Ben Simmons,'” Wolfson said, per HoopsHype. “But I’m now told he hasn’t had any dialogue about Ben Simmons with Philadelphia for a couple weeks.”
  • The Jazz are off to an impressive 6-1 start this season, but it’s becoming clear that Rudy Gay will fill a “substantial need” on the roster once he’s ready to return from his offseason heel surgery, contends Tony Jones of The Athletic. Gay has the size and athleticism necessary to match up with bigger forwards on defense, and can create his own shot in high-pressure situations on offense, Jones writes.
  • Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com takes a look at CJ McCollum‘s mindset after an offseason in which the standout Trail Blazers guard was the subject of much trade speculation.

Northwest Notes: Giddey, Jokic, Hyland, Vanderbilt

The Warriors were planning to take Josh Giddey with the seventh pick in this year’s draft if the Thunder hadn’t scooped him up at No. 6, Giddey’s father tells Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Warrick Giddey says the Warriors told his son’s agent, Daniel Moldovan, that Josh would be their target if he was still on the board.

The Thunder and the Warriors were the only teams to hold private pre-draft workouts with the Australian guard, and both came away impressed. Giddey is averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists through his first five NBA games and appears ready for the league at age 19.

“We’re not overly surprised by what we’ve seen,” coach Mark Daigneault said, “but obviously there’s a lot of work to do and we’re excited to continue to work with him. He’s gotta get a lot better as well.” 

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t consider sitting out Friday’s game after suffering a bruised knee earlier in the week, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic underwent an MRI that showed no structural damage and said he plans to keep going as long as the knee doesn’t feel weak. “They’ve been making him go through the protocols, the testing, different drills and they felt that he was more than capable of getting out there and playing,” coach Michael Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have one of the lowest-scoring benches in the league and may turn to rookie guard Bones Hyland for a spark, Singer adds in a separate story. Hyland saw his first game action this week and scored seven points in 10 minutes. “I keep on saying it, but Bones Hyland,” Malone said. “That second unit’s struggling to score, make shots. Well Bones has shown he can do that.”
  • His Timberwolves teammates love playing alongside Jarred Vanderbilt, who got his first start of the season this week so he could guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, per Megan Ryan of The Star Tribune. The fourth-year power forward is known for an aggressive, unselfish approach to the game. “He’s a contagious person,” Anthony Edwards said. “Anytime he’s on the floor, we’re playing better, we’re playing harder. We’re making the extra pass, making the extra closeout. We’re one step faster.”

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Mitchell, Lillard, Wolves Offense

Nikola Jokic has a sore knee, but Nuggets coach Michael Malone is equally concerned about Michael Porter Jr.‘s slow start, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Signed to a five-year max extension in late September, Porter is averaging just 11.5 PPG while shooting 34.6% from the field.

“We’ve got to get Michael Porter going,” Malone said. “He’s four games in, and I know that he’s capable of playing at a much higher level — from a shooting standpoint, his efficiency, his rebounding, his defense — so we’ve got to get more from Michael Porter.”

Jokic is questionable to play on Friday.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz, particularly new owner Ryan Smith, are going out of their way to keep Donovan Mitchell happy, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report writes. Mitchell has voiced to Jazz officials his desire to see more Black men in the organization and it has added a number of them in recent hires. Mitchell is in the first year of a five-year, $163MM contract.
  • There was a lot of speculation regarding Damian Lillard‘s future with the Trail Blazers during the offseason but he appears content now, Mark Medina of NBA.com writes. Lillard has become a strong believer in first-year coach Chauncey Billups, who led the Pistons to the 2004 championship. “I think it’ll just continue to get better,” Lillard said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to see something different and to learn. (Billups) knows the way to help myself and him, as a coach, to become a champion.”
  • The Timberwolves are off to a 3-1 start despite shooting 42.6% from the field and averaging 16.3 turnovers per game. They’re still trying to strike the perfect balance, led by their Big Three of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “That is the balance when you give everybody as much freedom as we do,” coach Chris Finch said. “Kat, Ant, D-Lo, they have the license to break the offense, if you will, or be aggressive within it is probably a better way to put it. They can’t just always live off doing it with the first pass or first action and I think that’s where we’re living right now.”

Injury Notes: Jokic, LeVert, LeBron, Davis, Zion

Nikola Jokic, who sustained a right knee injury late in the second quarter of the Nuggets‘ loss to Utah on Tuesday night, seemed to be in a good deal of pain and didn’t return to the game. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes, Jokic – who was diagnosed with a knee contusion – appears to have avoided a major injury.

“I really haven’t had a chance to talk to trainers yet but I don’t think it’s anything too too serious,” said Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who added that he wasn’t sure whether Jokic would undergo any additional testing. The reigning MVP was initially deemed questionable to return and tested the knee at halftime, but Malone determined the risk wasn’t worth the reward on the second night of a back-to-back set.

“He said he thinks he’s fine,” Nuggets point guard Monte Morris said, per Youngmisuk. “He’s a real tough dude. I am sure he will be OK. I hope so.”

Here are a few more injury updates from across the NBA:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert, who is recovering from a back injury, has been ramping up his basketball activities and practiced with the team on Tuesday, per Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. Although head coach Rick Carlisle wouldn’t make any guarantees about when LeVert would be back on the court, the 27-year-old has been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game in Toronto and says he feels “ready to go,” tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • LeBron James missed Tuesday’s win over San Antonio on Tuesday due to a sore right ankle and Anthony Davis injured his right knee during the fourth quarter, but the Lakers aren’t concerned about either one of their stars, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. James is considered day-to-day, while Davis was able to stay in the game after suffering what he called “a little stinger.”
  • Pelicans head coach Willie Green provided a minor update on Zion Williamson‘s health on Tuesday, telling reporters that the former No. 1 pick is “progressing and doing more and more on the floor” (link via Pelicans.com). Williamson, who is coming off right foot surgery, will have another round of scans performed on his foot later this week or next week, according to Green, who said the team would know more at that time.