Nikola Jokic

Injury Updates: J. Collins, Leuer, Jokic, Curry

The Hawks will be without rookie big man John Collins for at least a couple weeks, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that Collins has a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. While an MRI revealed no tear, the young center is expected to be sidelined for sidelined for two or three weeks, per Charania.

While Collins’ ailment shouldn’t be a long-term issue, it’s bad news for a Hawks team that’s already missing starting center Dewayne Dedmon and veteran big man Mike Muscala. While Muscala may return soon, Dedmon is expected to be out for three to six weeks, so Atlanta will likely have to lean on bigs like Miles Plumlee and two-way player Tyler Cavanaugh for the first half of December.

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

  • Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said today that forward/center Jon Leuer, who has been out with a sprained ankle, is expected to undergo a non-surgical process that will keep him on the shelf for another two to four weeks, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Van Gundy had indicated last week that Leuer’s recovery wasn’t progressing like the Pistons had hoped.
  • Nikola Jokic injured his ankle on Thursday night, and while the Nuggets are running additional tests today, initial X-rays were negative, and the team is optimistic that the injury is just a sprain, a league source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Stephen Curry‘s finger injury appears likely to hamper him for some time, but he and the Warriors don’t expect to sit him down for an extended stretch, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “I don’t think it’s something where if we give him a few days off, it’s going to disappear,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “I think it may linger for a little while, so he’s going to have to get used to it.”

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Ferguson, Aminu

The time is now for Nikola Jokic to blossom into a leader. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone recently told his third-year big man as much given the absence of veteran power forward Paul Millsap in the lineup, Gina Mizell of the Denver Post writes.

The Nuggets have stressed that they need to see Jokic exhibit more leadership qualities, his production on the floor, while impressive, no longer enough for a young team eager to claim its first playoff berth since 2013.

Mizell writes that Jokic came through this week, uncharacteristically speaking up to motivate a lethargic looking Nuggets roster one night and then showing off his mental toughness by returning to the court on an injured ankle the next time out.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Michael Malone Suspended; Jokic Fine Rescinded

The NBA has suspended Nuggets head coach Michael Malone for one game without pay for entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official during yesterday’s loss to the Lakers, the league announced today in a press release. Malone will serve his suspension tonight when the Nuggets travel to Sacramento to face the Kings.

The NBA also announced in the same press release that the fine given to Nikola Jokic for being ejected from yesterday’s game has been rescinded. The league says that Jokic properly received a technical foul for his actions but that he should not have been ejected.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Beasley, Thunder

The new Nuggets frontcourt has gotten off to a slow start this season but that doesn’t mean Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap won’t figure it out eventually. As Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes in a feature exploring the duo’s production thus far, the club is committed to building something special.

It initially seemed inevitable that Jokic’s passing abilities would make Millsap’s life easier scoring in the post. A boost in efficiency down low, however, hasn’t yet materialized.

Over the course of his first 10 games with the Nuggets, Millsap has averaged 15.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. That’s down from his last year averages of 17.1 and 7.7, respectively, with the Hawks.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers will host the Thunder in a Sunday tilt, the first appearance either Carmelo Anthony and Paul George will make in Portland this season. As Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes, the franchise actively pursued both over the course of the summer, to no avail.
  • The Nuggets are starting to incorporate sophomore Malik Beasley into their rotation. Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders spoke with the 20-year-old about vying for a consistent role.
  • The Thunder have struggled in the clutch, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes, thanks in no small part to the 6.3 rebounds per game the club allows its opponents to pull down in the final five minutes. That mark sits dead last in the league and the club is 29th in opponent’s field-goal percentage during that stretch, too.

Northwest Notes: Millsap, O’Neale, Burks

The addition of Paul Millsap will give the Nuggets an established defender capable of helping the franchise improve its efforts on that side of the ball, Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes. Last season Denver sported the second-worst defense in the NBA.

Grizzard suggests that Millsap’s “humble-yet-forceful” personality could bring out the best in his Nuggets teammates, including Nikola Jokic who already opted out of EuroBasket 2017 to focus on more individual workouts.

Millsap’s efficient low-post game will give Jokic yet more of an opportunity to showcase his playmaking abilities while the versatile Jokic gives Millsap his most skilled frontcourt partner since Al Horford.

He may not be the final piece that the Nuggets need to contend, Grizzard writes, but he certainly fits into the right puzzle.

There’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Thunder elected not to waive Kyle Singler at the stretching deadline yesterday. While that may not mean he’s in for a big role in 2017/18, the veteran forward’s contract could be a valuable asset to include in a mid-season trade, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • It’s no sure thing that Royce O’Neale will stick with the Jazz this season – the club currently has 16 guaranteed contracts – but the franchise saw enough in the versatile wing to offer him a three-year contract with the first season guaranteed earlier this summer. Benjamin Mehic of the Deseret News broke down the 24-year-old’s long journey to the NBA.
  • A knee injury sidelined Jazz guard Alec Burks in the middle of last spring’s postseason but the 26-year-old is back at full health. Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets that Burks will be ready to go without restriction at training camp.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Harris, Wiggins

While the addition of Paul Millsap gives the Nuggets a tantalizing frontcourt combination, the team’s duo of Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris was one of the league’s  most gifted offensive pairings last season, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype writes.

While Jokic’s status as one of the league’s most prolific low-post weapons is undisputed, Urbina’s recount demonstrates exactly how the Nuggets center established himself as one of the game’s most efficienct big men.

Harris, who posted a modest but intriguing 14.9 points and 2.9 assists per game last season, has a skill set that compliments Jokic’s particularly well, as evidenced by the fact that the Nuggets boasted the league’s highest offensive rating when the relatively small sample size was prorated over the course of the full season.

For that reason, while the Nuggets will be happy to add a blue chip forward like Millsap, much of the team’s future success will likely come from the talent that they’ve built through the draft.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The fact that Andrew Wiggins recently changed agents won’t impact his extension deal, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press tweets. CBA rules dictate that Wiggins must wait two weeks to sign the new deal after changing his representation. Some within the Timberwolves organization, Krawczynski adds in a second tweet are ‘puzzled by the timing of the move’.
  • The Trail Blazers have named Jesse Elis their new director of player health and performance, Mike Richman of the Oregonian writes. Elis will replace Chris Stackpole who had held the position for the past four years.
  • The Jazz have appointed Jonathan Rinehart the new team president of their G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, the team announced in a press release. Rinehart has been with the big league club for the past 12 seasons.

Antetokounmpo Wins Most Improved Player Award

Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, as was announced on the TNT awards show Monday night.

The Bucks point forward posted averages of 22.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 5.4 APG and 1.9 BPG last season. The previous season, he averaged a slash line of 16.9/7.7/4.3/1.4.

Antetokounmpo topped the two other finalists, Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in the voting. In the Hoops Rumors staff picks, Antetokounmpo received two of the five votes.

Stein’s Latest: George, Rockets, Spurs, Nuggets

News broke Sunday that the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Pacers had discussed a three-way deal that would have sent Paul George to the Cavs and Kevin Love to Denver ahead of the draft. As we wrote about earlie, one variation of the potential deal would have sent Kenneth Faried to Cleveland as well.

In an article published at ESPN shortly thereafter, Marc Stein – who sent the initial tweet Sunday night – goes into more details, sharing information about the pre-draft conversations that took place surrounding the Pacers forward.

Here are some highlights from Stein’s latest piece, co-written with Haynes:

  • While the conversations between the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Pacers didn’t amount to anything before the draft, Cleveland haven’t abandoned its pursuit of the two-way All-Star. The Cavs legitimately believe that they could convince George to abandon his dreams of playing for his hometown Lakers, something he is expected to pursue when he hits free agency in 2018.
  • In addition to Cleveland’s ongoing pursuit and the Celtics discussions that came to light on draft day, Stein and Haynes note that the Rockets and Spurs both aggressively pursued George deals before the draft as well.
  • The Nuggets are looking to upgrade at power forward and it’s the reason why Love was included in the possible three-team deal. Denver similarly intends to make plays for pending free agents Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap.
  • All of Faried, Wilson Chandler and Emmanuel Mudiay are said to be available. Big man Nikola Jokic and second-year guard Jamal Murray are supposedly untouchable.
  • The pair also confirm what we wrote about on Friday following a Joe Vardon column at Cleveland.com; the Cavs are expected to pursue Carmelo Anthony should he be bought out by the Knicks.

Nuggets GM Talks Draft, Free Agency, Jokic

With the NBA draft right around the corner, Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly appeared on Altitude Sports Radio on Tuesday (SoundCloud link) and spoke to Vic Lombardi about his team’s plan for the upcoming offseason. Connelly, who suggested that he’d like the free agent period to happen before the draft, discussed the Nuggets’ approach to both of those major events on the NBA’s offseason calendar.

The interview includes a handful of interesting comments from Connelly about the Nuggets’ roster-building process, competing with the Warriors, Danilo Gallinari‘s status, and other topics. The conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the Denver GM:

On the Nuggets’ approach to the draft:

“We have a handful more workouts, we’re bringing a bunch more guys at the end of this week, then watch a bunch of tape and work the phones. A large part of the analysis is done, we just have make sure our order makes sense and get a better sense of what’s going to happen before us and after us in the draft. … Anything certainly can happen, we always try to be aggressive. There’s a couple guys we’d be pretty motivated to move up for, but it’s difficult to get to certain areas of this draft. We like to make a lot of calls and see if we can’t shake up a little bit.”

On the Nuggets’ approach to free agency:

“I think we will dive in for a couple guys.  Certainly our own guys are extremely important and they’re going to take priority, but there’s two or three guys I think we’ll be extremely aggressive with. What we don’t want to do is sign guys to sign guys, and don’t want to overpay for role players. There are a couple guys we think may be difference makers for us and we’ll make a good pitch to those guys. If that doesn’t work out, then we’ll essentially step back a little bit and let the market develop.”

On how the free agent process will work for the Nuggets:

“It really depends. It can take shape numerous ways. If I have a direct relationship, I’ll just reach out to the player. As you know, I’m always not the most serious guy so it would probably be through humor and gauge their interest. Sometimes, an agent will reach out to us. This offseason, it’s been encouraging, we’ve had a handful of agents reach out to us and say, ‘My guy would really like to play with Nikola Jokic.’ I think that speaks well to our future. When guys want to play with someone, it’s encouraging.”

Northwest Notes: Miller, Jokic, Jazz, Brooks

After 17 years in the NBA, Nuggets forward Mike Miller isn’t ready to think about retirement, writes Mick Garry of the Argus [S.D.] Leader. Mitchell returned to his home state Saturday for an annual appearance at a basketball clinic and reflected on what it’s like to play professionally at age 37. “For me, it’s just a lot of fun – I enjoy playing,” Miller said. “I always will. My family still enjoys me playing, which is most important. So we’re going to keep going as long as we can. Every year is a new challenge and I enjoy those challenges. Until I quit, finding something to replace this will be hard.” Miller signed with Denver last summer, but appeared in just 20 games and averaged 7.6 minutes per night. His $3.5MM salary for next season won’t become guaranteed until July 12th.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Miller believes Nikola Jokic‘s breakout season will give free agents a reason to come to Denver. In an interview posted on the Nuggetswebsite, Miller talked about the bright future the 22-year-old has in the league. “I think the good thing that we have right now is Joker is one of those guys that everyone in the league is starting to take heed to and understand who he is,” Miller said. “He’s one of those superstars, I think he’s going to be a superstar. I think you’ll see even more growth at the beginning of this next year, that everyone just wants to play with. He plays that style of basketball. I’ve compared him a lot to Marc and Pau Gasol, I think he’s a lot like that.”
  • The Jazz have 11 players scheduled for workouts today, including UCLA big man T.J. Leaf, who is projected as a late first-rounder, relays Brandon Judd of The Deseret News. Joining Leaf at the second session will be Kentucky’s Dominique Hawkins, Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene, Louisiana Tech’s Erik McCree and Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay. The first workout will feature Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, Oregon’s Dylan Ennis, South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier, Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu, Indiana’s Thomas Bryant and North Carolina’s Tony Bradley.
  • Several players with NBA ties were among the 25 participants in Utah’s free agent mini-camp Friday and Saturday. Tyler Hansbrough, Lamar Patterson, Cleanthony Early and R.J. Hunter are the most recognizable names, and the complete list can be found on the Jazz website.
  • Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, who worked out Saturday for the Trail Blazers, told Casey Holdahl of NBA.com that he can see a role for himself with the organization. “I got to watch Portland a lot, you get to see where you’d fit in,” Brooks said. “Especially with Portland, they’ve got two dominant guards and they need help with role players scoring. They get up and down, get into guys, it’s kind of like Oregon. The coach is kind of like [Oregon] Coach [Dana] Altman, they just let their guys play and go out there and try to compete and try to win games.”
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