PJ Dozier

Northwest Notes: Little, Zeller, Nuggets, Bol

Nassir Little is working to shake off a rough preseason game with the Blazers last Monday, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes. Little finished with just three points in 24 minutes, shooting 1-of-9 from the floor with five turnovers. He also registered a team-worst minus-16 net rating.

“I was a little anxious,” Little admitted. “I was super excited to play.”

Portland next plays on Monday against Sacramento, giving Little and the team a full week to re-focus. The 21-year-old is one of the youngest players on the team’s preseason roster, having been drafted No. 25 overall by the club in 2019.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we’re all learning,” he said. “A lot of new stuff is being put in, so just being able to take advantage of this time to practice is going to be huge for me and the entire team.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Speaking of the Trail Blazers, center Cody Zeller underwent successful surgery on Friday to repair a broken nose, according to Fentress (Twitter link). The team has yet to offer a timeline for Zeller’s return.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post examines multiple Nuggets-related topics in his latest mailbag, including a possible extension for PJ Dozier. Dozier, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, is coming off the best season of his four-year career, having averaged 7.7 points per game in 50 contests.
  • In a separate article for the Denver Post, Singer also examined the development of Bol Bol, who was acquired by the Nuggets on the night of the 2019 NBA Draft. Singer notes that Bol appears to be more engaged with the team during the preseason. The big man has only appeared in 39 NBA games to date.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Lillard, Conley, Barton, Dozier

The Trail Blazers are compiling a list of candidates to replace coach Terry Stotts and the first round of virtual interviews could begin this week, according to Anne Peterson of The Associated Press.

“We’re running a very expansive, diverse search,” Portland GM Neil Olshey said. “We’ll probably have anywhere from 20 to 25 candidates in there with biographical data, background, intel, impact studies, coaching records, playing records, etc., so that we all are speaking the same language as we vet these candidates.”

Olshey won’t reach out to teams or agents requesting permission to conduct formal interviews until he reviews all of that information.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Damian Lillard is expected to have a major say in the Trail Blazers’ coaching search and even went public with his affinity for Jason Kidd, who has since pulled himself out of consideration, and Chauncey Billups. However, Lillard is not making demands of any kind when it comes to the coaching hire, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. He’ll let the front office and ownership handle the search and they’ll communicate with their franchise player during the process.
  • Jazz point guard Mike Conley participated in parts of Monday’s practice, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Conley suffered a mild right hamstring strain during Game 5 of the first round against Memphis. The team has listed him as questionable for Game 1 against the Clippers on Tuesday (Twitter link). He averaged 20 PPG and 10.25 APG during the first four games of the playoffs.
  • Not only did the Nuggets eliminate the Trail Blazers without Jamal Murray, they were also missing Will Barton (hamstring) and PJ Dozier (adductor). That could change for the second-round matchup with the Suns, coach Michael Malone said to Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post. They won’t play in Game 1 on Monday but they have returned to practice. “There is definitely hope and optimism that they will be available at some point during the series,” Malone said.

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.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Millsap, Rivers, Barton

Part of Nikola Jokic‘s rise to being an MVP finalist has been his ability to adjust to different teammates, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. A string of roster moves and injuries, most notably to Jamal Murray, have shaken up the Nuggets‘ lineup throughout the season, but Jokic’s production hasn’t fallen.

Singer notes that Denver’s starters for tonight’s Game 1 of the playoff series with Portland will likely be Jokic, Michael Porter Jr.Facundo CampazzoAaron Gordon, and Austin Rivers. Porter is in his first year as a full-time starter, Campazzo is a rookie who has made 19 NBA starts, Gordon has been with the team for 25 games following a midseason trade, and Rivers has played 15 games after signing with the Nuggets last month.

“The attention that (Jokic) draws, being able to do so many things, not just score the ball, but pass and the way he passes and makes plays so easy for his teammates, makes him so unique to play with,” two-way guard Markus Howard said. “… Just the attention that he brings from opposing defenses, and his ability to be creative with the pass, is unlike anybody I’ve ever played with.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • After a decade as an NBA starter, Paul Millsap has adjusted to a reserve role since the trade for Gordon, as Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post writes. The 36-year-old power forward is trying to lead by example and make the best of his new responsibilities. “There are challenges that come with it,” Millsap said. “I want to compete. I want to play every single minute during a game. But that’s not possible and that’s what you have a team for. I’ve always been a guy (to do) whatever the team needs.”
  • Rivers is suffering from a non-COVID related illness, but the Nuggets are optimistic he will be able to play tonight, Singer tweets. He is officially listed as questionable.
  • Will Barton is hoping to be able to play in this series, but it won’t happen in Game 1, according to Clevis Murray of NBC Sports Northwest. Barton has been ruled out for tonight because of the strained hamstring that has sidelined him since April 23. PJ Dozier also remains out with a right adductor strain. “I think Will is definitely closer (to returning) than PJ,” coach Michael Malone said.

Injury Updates: Ibaka, Beal, Conley, Dozier, Barton

Serge Ibaka hasn’t played since March 14 due to a back injury but the Clippers’ big man could be in uniform on Friday. He’s been upgraded to questionable, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ibaka has averaged 10.9 PPG and 6.7 RPG in his first season with the Clippers and could be a pivotal player in the postseason.

We have more news on the injury front:

  • Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal won’t play against Cleveland on Friday due to a hamstring injury, the team tweets. The league’s second-leading scorer hasn’t played since last Saturday. Washington can clinch a spot in the play-in tournament with a victory tonight.
  • Jazz All-Star guard Mike Conley told the media he’ll play the final two games of the regular season, including tonight’s tilt against the Thunder, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. He’s been out since April 26 due to a right hamstring strain.
  • The Nuggets’ Will Barton (hamstring) and PJ Dozier (right adductor) are not expected to return before the playoffs, coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Barton, who has been out since April 23, is closer to returning than Dozier.

PJ Dozier Suffers Right Adductor Strain

An MRI today has revealed that Nuggets guard PJ Dozier has suffered a right adductor strain, tweets Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

The extent to which right adductor strain injuries can affect a player’s availability varies from case to case, but Dozier could be out at least a week as he recovers. The 6’6″ combo guard out of South Carolina has been enjoying a solid season with the Nuggets, his fourth in the NBA.

The 24-year-old Denver guard has carved out a rotational role with an ascendant Nuggets team for 2020/21. In 50 contests, he is averaging career bests of 7.7 PPG and 3.6 RPG, along with 1.8 APG, across 21.8 MPG.

Losing Dozier could mean that the Nuggets could rely on recently-added combo guard Austin Rivers to further pick up the slack. The Nuggets’ depleted backcourt is also, of course, without star guard Jamal Murray, done for the year with an ACL tear. Shooting guard Will Barton is sidelined with a “significant” hamstring strain, while backup point guard Monte Morris has missed the club’s last nine contests.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Nuggets, Wolves, Jazz

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who recently missed three games due to right hamstring tendiopathy, hasn’t looked like his usual self in the three games since his return, all Portland losses, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Lillard has made just 25-of-72 shot attempts in those games, good for 34.7% from the floor.

As Quick details, Lillard said on Sunday that this is the “worst year physically” he has had in his nine-year playing career, but the All-Star guard said he doesn’t intend to sit out any more games as the Trail Blazers fight for a favorable playoff position. They’ve slipped to seventh, one game back of the sixth-seeded Mavs.

While the Blazers want to avoid being relegated to in a play-in tournament to secure their postseason berth – like they were a year ago – Quick wonders if it might make sense to rest Lillard for a few games before the season ends to make sure he’s in top form. As Quick observes, Portland is 3-2 this season without its leading scorer and has the backcourt depth to get by without him for a few games if a break would benefit Lillard.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

Northwest Notes: Harrison, Beasley, Maledon, Nuggets

The contract signed by new Jazz guard Shaquille Harrison is non-guaranteed, per John Hollinger of the Athletic. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder also told reporters today that Harrison is currently recovering from a broken hand, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. The newest member of the team is engaging in individual workouts with a single coach at present.

Snyder lauded Harrison’s potential as a defender for the Jazz. “When you watch him play, it jumps out at you that he can defend,” he said.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Newly re-signed Timberwolves shooting guard Malik Beasley is stressing connection and communication in training camp, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune“Every day I ask [D’Angelo Russell] and Ricky [Rubio] what I can do to be a better playmaker,” Beasley said. He also noted that he and Minnesota star center Karl-Anthony Towns are similarly communicative. “We’ve built a relationship to be able to talk to each other and hold each other accountable. So I think this year is going to be a great year for KAT and the whole unit.”
  • Thunder second-round rookie selection Théo Maledon has signed a four-year, $7.8MM contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Maledon will earn a $2MM guaranteed salary in each of the first two years of his new deal, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Smith goes on to note that each of the final two seasons of Maledon’s deal – which comes out of OKC’s mid-level exception – are non-guaranteed, and that the Thunder will have a team option for the fourth year.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has deemed wing Will Barton “doubtful” for Saturday’s first preseason bout against the Warriors, Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports tweets. Malone also hailed guard PJ Dozier as the “MVP” of Denver’s training camp thus far.

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.

PJ Dozier Joins Nuggets In Orlando

Nuggets guard PJ Dozier has touched down in the NBA’s Disney World campus in Orlando, filling out Denver’s season restart roster, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The 6’8″ floor-spacing bench guard out of South Carolina has seen limited time for Denver in his third season, averaging 11.1 minutes per game for just 21 of the team’s 65 games. He is a career 39.5% three-point shooter, and has connected on 39.6% of his 1.3 attempts this season.

Dozier will need to immediately quarantine himself in his hotel room, clear a physical, and test negative for the coronavirus for two straight days before he can join the Nuggets for team activities. This timeline would allow him to participate in the team’s first seeding game on Saturday, August 1 against the Heat.

Starting point guard Jamal Murray, starting small forward Will Barton, bench small forward Keita Bates-Diop, and exciting rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. were only available to partake in their first scrimmage game yesterday, while backup point guard Monte Morris just cleared quarantine protocols and appears probable for Saturday’s first seeding game on Saturday, as we previously noted.

Coach Michael Malone said earlier this week that, prior to yesterday, the team’s various player absences have meant that scrimmages against other teams have served as the only time the Nuggets could play five-on-five basketball, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link). The Nuggets sport a 43-22 record ahead of their season restart this weekend, and are currently the No. 3 seed in the West.