Aaron Gordon

Nuggets Notes: Demoff, White House, Gordon, Jokic

Kevin Demoff, president of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, was named president of team and media operations for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment on Thursday, meaning he’ll oversee the Nuggets and Colorado’s other KSE-owned teams,writes The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando.

The Nuggets’ basketball operations won’t be affected by the move, however. The Nuggets currently don’t have a president of basketball operations over general manager Calvin Booth and it will stay that way, tweets DNVR Sports’ Harrison Wind. However, Demoff will “be in the room” for decisions, according to Wind (Twitter link).

Initially, there’s not gonna be hardly any change. We’re just going to be including Kevin in certain conversations,” Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke said. “… Calvin has done an unbelievable job since he stepped in (after) Tim Connelly’s departure a year and a half ago now.

Demoff’s responsibility to the Rams will not change, according to Durando, and he’ll be in both Los Angeles and Denver. A new practice facility for the Nuggets is part of KSE’s future planning, but there were no specific updates Thursday.

We have more from the Nuggets:

  • The Nuggets, one game out of first place in the West, are solely focused on achieving the top spot in the conference, TNT and Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reports (Twitter link). As part of keeping their focus on that goal, they’re not visiting The White House as defending champions after the visit was rescheduled from January to March 18, one day before a crucial matchup with the Timberwolves. Haynes emphasizes the decision was made purely from a basketball standpoint.
  • Denver prevailed in a potential NBA Finals preview against the Celtics on Thursday, and superstar Nikola Jokic recorded a 32-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in the victory. As ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes, the Nuggets were relentless in exploiting Boston’s mistakes, with Jokic easily finding Aaron Gordon for backdoor lobs when facing double teams. Gordon was effusive in his praise of Jokic after the game. “He’s the center that I’ve always, the player that I’ve always dreamed of playing with,” Gordon said of Jokic. “He’s someone that sees the floor, someone that is super unselfish. And I think he likes just the fact that he can just throw it anywhere and I’ll go get it.
  • Jokic sustained a minor injury against the Celtics, but it isn’t expected to cause any issues. Dealing with a right arm contusion, Jokic is listed as probable for Denver’s Saturday matchup against the Jazz, according to Wind (Twitter link).

Nuggets Notes: Nnaji, Murray, Gordon, Jokic

After signing a four-year, $32MM rookie scale extension in the offseason, Nuggets forward/center Zeke Nnaji surely hoped to take a step forward in 2023/24. Instead, he’s been out of the team’s rotation for much of the season, averaging fewer minutes per game (9.9) than he did over the previous two campaigns (17.0 and 13.7, respectively).

However, head coach Michael Malone reinserted the 23-year-old into the rotation a few games before the All-Star break and Nnaji is trying to take advantage of the opportunity, according to Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.

I feel like I’m playing well,” Nnaji said after Sunday’s win vs. Golden State. “Maybe (it’s) the work that I’m putting in, but I found a little rhythm.”

Nnaji, who views himself as a natural power forward instead of a center, which he’s played far more of this season, says he’s remained even-keeled amid his inconsistent playing time, Benedetto writes.

Never get too high, never get too low,” Nnaji said of his approach while playing time has waxed and waned. “I have confidence in the practice and the work that I put in every day, whether it’s a game day or an off day. Whenever I get my opportunity, I just go out there and try to make the most (of it) and help the team win however I can.”

Here’s more on the defending champions:

  • Point guard Jamal Murray missed the second game of a back-to-back last week in Portland. John Hollinger of The Athletic asked Malone about the injury, with the coach saying it’s something Murray and the team will have to manage for the rest of the season. “It’s shin splints,” said Malone, “and everything he’s dealing with right now, every time he plays it’s gonna be an issue. This is not second night of a back-to-back ‘resting.’ He is managing an injury. It’s just something we’re just going to have to find a way to figure out.” Malone added that in order for Murray’s shin splints to fully heal, he’ll need an extended period of rest, almost certainly in the offseason. “I’m sure it’s very painful,” Malone continued, “and the more he plays — and Jamal is gonna be a guy who is going to play upwards 35, 36 minutes a night. We just have to try to limit his load as much as possible — shootarounds, practices, whatever we’re doing — to make sure that game days are holy and he can be available for as many of them as possible.” For what it’s worth, Murray isn’t on the injury report tonight vs. Miami, which is also the second game of a back-to-back, as Benedetto tweets.
  • The Nuggets entered the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, but they were unconcerned about their form entering the home stretch of the season, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. The team has reeled off four straight victories post-break, and forward Aaron Gordon says the team didn’t want to peak too early. “We know what time it is now,” Gordon said after Wednesday’s win. “It’s time to start ramping up. I know we didn’t want to be playing our best basketball early in the season.”
  • Mo Dakhil of The Athletic breaks down some of the “genius” of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who is the frontrunner for the award again in ’23/24. Jokic has recorded a triple-double in just three quarters in each of the past four games, and his teammates have great timing on cuts to the basket when the Serbian center is double-teamed, Dakhil writes.

Northwest Notes: Henderson, Ayton, Murray, Gordon, Flagler

Scoot Henderson received his first start since Jan. 14 on Thursday and Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups plans to keep him in the lineup, according to Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter links).

“The biggest thing is he deserves it. He’s just played really well,” Billups said. “I’ve wanted him to earn everything he gets. And he’s done that.”

Henderson, the third pick of last year’s draft, averaged 19.0 points and 5.6 assists in the previous five games.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Deandre Ayton has averaged 17.8 points on 62% shooting from the field, 11.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 blocks in his last 10 games. The Trail Blazers center missed 12 games due to a knee injury and returned to action on Jan. 19. Ayton feels he’s fitting in better by taking inventory of his past mistakes, he told Casey Holdahl of the Blazers’ website. “I’ve been trying to humble myself a little bit and just accept the challenge, have some humility when it comes to failure,” he said. “Not try to rush anything. We’re a young team but we’re an exciting team as well. We just can’t skip no steps and we have to go through these growing pains a little bit where we’re just trying to know each other, really.”
  • Jamal Murray was passed over for All-Star recognition yet again this season, but he has something more important — a championship ring. The Nuggets guard expressed that sentiment to The Athletic’s Sam Amick. “I’m an All-Star when you need the All-Star to show up — in the playoffs,” he said. “You want the best to step up (then), right? And I think I do a good job of that. So I kind of backed myself up in that way. That’s it. That’s what it is. So it’s just more fuel to the fire. But (not being selected an All-Star) doesn’t hurt me like that, psychologically. I haven’t made it for so long, and I’m a champion. And I’m on the best team in the world playing with the best player in the world.”
  • The Nuggets enter the All-Star break on a three-game skid and Aaron Gordon tells The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando that some time off is exactly what they require. “I think everybody needs a break,” Gordon said. “Everybody needs some rest. I think that’s what it comes down to. When you’re fatigued, not only is your body tired, but your mind is tired, too. Your ability to focus is just not as laser-sharp.”
  • Adam Flagler‘s two-way contract with the Thunder is for two seasons, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Flagler, an undrafted guard playing with the team’s G League affiliate, signed on Saturday.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Deadline Approach, Jokic, Gordon

Jamal Murray may be the most accomplished active player to never make an All-Star team. The Nuggets guard was passed over against last week when the Western Conference reserves were announced.

Murray said he’ll draw added motivation from the latest snub, according to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post.

“Yeah, of course, but there’s multiple players in the league that should be All-Stars (who aren’t), you know what I’m saying?” Murray said. (De’Aaron) Fox wasn’t an All-Star. There’s somebody else. Trae (Young) wasn’t an All-Star. So … what do you want me to do now? I think you guys have seen me play at a pretty high level against those same guys who are All-Stars.”

Murray is averaging 21.0 points and 6.6 assists per game for the defending champions. He has missed 14 contests due to injury but coach Michael Malone said that shouldn’t have prevented him from being selected.

“Plenty of guys make it that have missed games,” Malone said. “And whether Jamal uses that as motivation or not, we’ll see. But I think he’s motivated in just helping this team win.”

We have more of the Nuggets:

  • Denver’s front office is monitoring the market for frontcourt depth and bench scoring but the Nuggets aren’t expected to make any major moves and could stand pat, according to Durando. Malone says the front office isn’t desperate to make a deal. Calvin (Booth) and his staff, I’m sure, are fielding phone calls. But I can’t imagine we’re actively calling many teams right now,” Malone said. “Are we satisfied? No. I think you always have to be responsible enough to look within and say, ‘Hey, can we do anything that makes us better?’ That’s always a question you have to ask. But knowing Calvin and the brief conversations we’ve had, there is nothing where Calvin’s on the phone, burning up the phone lines to 29 other teams.”
  • After getting a night off last Wednesday, Nikola Jokic has been his usual dominant self since then. He racked up 27 points, 22 rebounds, 12 assists and two blocks against the Trail Blazers on Friday, then followed that up with a 29-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist performance against Portland on Sunday. Denver won both games by double-digits. “I like that we are playing with the same effort,” Jokic told Durando.
  • Aaron Gordon is often on the receiving end of Jokic’s creative and deft passes. Gordon has a simple explanation why they work so well together, as Durando relays. “That’s the best passer in the business,” he said. “I’ve got the best hands in the business.”

Team USA Announces 41-Player Pool For 2024 Olympics

USA Basketball has officially announced a pool of 41 players who are in the mix for the 12 spots on the 2024 Olympic men’s basketball team.

While the pool is subject to change, Team USA’s 12-man roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics will, in all likelihood, be made up of players from this group.

The list figures to shrink as the summer nears due to players suffering injuries or opting not to participate for other reasons, but at some point prior to the July event the U.S. decision-makers will have to choose a final roster from the remaining candidates.

Here’s the full list of 41 players, 28 of whom have represented Team USA in a previous World Cup or Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  3. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
  4. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
  5. Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
  6. Devin Booker (Suns)
  7. Mikal Bridges (Nets)
  8. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  9. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
  10. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  11. Alex Caruso (Bulls)
  12. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  13. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Suns)
  15. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
  16. Joel Embiid (Sixers)
  17. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  18. Paul George (Clippers)
  19. Aaron Gordon (Nuggets)
  20. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)
  21. James Harden (Clippers)
  22. Josh Hart (Knicks)
  23. Tyler Herro (Heat)
  24. Jrue Holiday (Celtics)
  25. Chet Holmgren (Thunder)
  26. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  27. Kyrie Irving (Mavericks)
  28. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  29. LeBron James (Lakers)
  30. Cameron Johnson (Nets)
  31. Walker Kessler (Jazz)
  32. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  33. Damian Lillard (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
  35. Chris Paul (Warriors)
  36. Bobby Portis (Bucks)
  37. Austin Reaves (Lakers)
  38. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Derrick White (Celtics)
  41. Trae Young (Hawks)

Adebayo, Booker, Durant, Holiday, Lillard, and Tatum were part of the Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo in 2021. Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Keldon Johnson, Zach LaVine, JaVale McGee, and Khris Middleton were also on that roster, but aren’t part of the preliminary pool this time around. It’s possible some of them turned down invitations.

“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” national team managing director Grant Hill said in a statement. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”

USA Basketball also announced today that Team USA will face Team Canada in Las Vegas on July 10 in an exhibition game. It sounds like that contest will take place during the NBA’s 2024 Summer League.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Finch, Gordon, Hardy

At 21-9, the Thunder are currently the second seed in a deep Western Conference. The team’s excellence is in part a credit to the ongoing greatness of its Big Three, as Joel Lorenzi The Oklahoman details.

Oklahoma City’s triumvirate of top-tier talent is made up of All-Star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, rookie center Chet Holmgren, and power forward Jalen Williams. Williams put on an offensive masterpiece in a 129-120 win against the Knicks Wednesday, scoring a career-most 36 points.

“He just gets more comfortable — every game, every week — with his reps,” Gilgeous-Alexander raved of the second-year forward. “Biggest thing with him was just him being aggressive early in his career. He’s starting to get around to that and trust his work.”

Williams also noted that his two-man game with Holmgren is improving by leaps and bounds.

“We’re trusting each other a lot more than we had been earlier in the year,” Williams said.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Although the Timberwolves are current a Western Conference-leading 24-7, head coach Chris Finch is convinced the team still needs to improve its scoring attack, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “There’s a lot of ways to be immature,” Finch said. “And generally, this team has been very mature. But we’ve got to grow up offensively. It’s time.” 
  • After suffering a dog attack on Christmas night that left him with hand and face lacerations, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is set to return to the team, informing Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (Twitter link) that he will be able to play on Monday against the Hornets. His own Rottweiler is the dog responsible for biting him on Christmas, Gordon reveals. “He’s a good boy,” Gordon claimed. Prior to the news, reserve point guard Reggie Jackson indicated that Gordon was more focused on the reigning champs’ progress this season than his own recovery, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “Aaron’s still concerned about the team,” Jackson said. “He wants to be back with the group, but we just want what’s best for him.”
  • With three wins in their past four road games, the Jazz are in an improved headspace, in the view of head coach Will Hardy, writes Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune. “Overall, it’s been a good road trip,” Hardy said. “We’ve been playing much better basketball the last three weeks than the beginning of the season… I do think our team is trending in the right direction.”

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Holiday, Jackson, KCP

Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon may not be out of action long after being bitten by a dog on Christmas Day, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Gordon will remain away from the team while he recovers, and Wind gets the feeling that he could be back within a couple of weeks.

The incident, which left Gordon with lacerations on his face and his right shooting hand, occurred after Monday’s game. Gordon’s teammates were informed of his condition at today’s practice.

“Right now it’s open-ended. We’re not going to put any pressure on him,” coach Michael Malone said of a potential timetable. “We need him to heal inside and out. Going through something like that is not something you come back from easily. That’s something where you have to heal from the physical, but you also have to heal from the mental and what you just went through. We want him back. We know we’re better off with him. But I want to support Aaron Gordon and make sure when he comes back, he’s ready to come back and play at the level he’s capable of.”

Gordon has appeared in 28 of Denver’s first 32 games and is averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per night. He played an integral role on last season’s championship team and has helped the Nuggets rise to second in the Western Conference standings with a five-game winning streak.

“I think he’s one of the more underrated players in the league,” Malone said. “We have his back. We love him and we’re here for him. Whenever he’s able to come back, we’re going to open our arms up and embrace him.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone didn’t announce how his starting lineup will be affected by Gordon’s absence, but Wind speculates Michael Porter Jr. will shift to power forward and Justin Holiday will be used as a starter. Denver has gone 4-0 with that lineup in the games that Gordon has missed.
  • Reggie Jackson briefly left Monday’s game, but he’s not listed on the injury report for Thursday, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. “I fully expect him to be able to go tomorrow,” Malone said. “He was dealing with a slight injury, but it’s nothing serious.”
  • Malone was impressed by the defensive performance Kentavious Caldwell-Pope turned in against Golden State, Wind adds in a separate story. As the primary defender on Stephen Curry, Caldwell-Pope helped hold him to 18 points on a 7-of-21 shooting night. “If that guy is not considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, I don’t know who is,” Malone said. “I just have to say that because I don’t think KCP gets the respect that he deserves, to be honest.”

Aaron Gordon Away From Nuggets After Being Bitten By Dog

Forward Aaron Gordon sustained lacerations to his face and hand after being bitten by a dog on December 25, the Nuggets announced (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports). Gordon is in “good condition” but will remain away from the team as he recovers from his injuries, per the release.

The incident must have occurred on Monday evening, as Gordon helped Denver defeat Golden State that afternoon. He had a strong outing, recording 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), 10 rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), Gordon suffered “serious dog bites” to his face and right shooting hand and received 21 stitches. It’s unclear how long Denver’s starting power forward will be sidelined, with Charania saying “it will take some time to heal.”

Obviously, it’s an unfortunate set of circumstances, and hopefully Gordon will recovery quickly from his injuries. The 28-year-old is in the midst of another solid season for the defending champions, averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 steal in 28 games (32.0 minutes).

Gordon, who is earning $22.3MM this season, is under contract through 2025/26, including a $23.8MM player option for that final season. He played a major role in helping the Nuggets win their first title in ’22/23.

With Gordon out, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson and Justin Holiday are all candidates to receive more playing time, with Michael Porter Jr. likely to slide up to power forward — that’s what happened when Gordon missed four games earlier this season with a heel injury.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Thunder, Nuggets, Jackson

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley is feeling revitalized at age 36 as a leader for the team with the West’s best record, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“You see it, not only with his approach but his ability to make huge plays, whether it be a steal in transition, obviously the threes, get the ball to the right people at the right time, close the game, quarterback the defense,” head coach Chris Finch said. “On and on it goes.”

“This is probably the best shape I’ve been in, in a long, long time,” Conley said. “I’m prepared to play however long I need to play. I tell [Finch] if I get tired, but I never do that. I want to be on the court as much as I can and help the guys, so we just keep communicating, and hopefully I can just keep going.”

The six-footer is averaging 11.5 PPG on .464/.445/.952 shooting, along with 6.3 APG and 2.9 RPG. Conley is in the final season of a three-year, $68MM million deal he signed when still with the Jazz. He’ll reach unrestricted free agency this summer, and if he can keep playing like this, he may still have more solid salaries waiting for him.

“I’ve still got it,” Conley said. “My age doesn’t matter, man. I’m still moving good, so I’m happy.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • A trio of former Thunder stars offered high praise for Oklahoma City’s upstart young club and fanbase, following an up-close-and-personal encounter this week, writes Justin Martinez of The Oklahoman. Clippers stars Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Paul George, who all had multiple successful seasons with the Thunder, fell 134-115 in Oklahoma City on Thursday. “This reminded me of when I was here in the beginning of the Thunder Up days,” Harden said. “And it’s beautiful. It’s been a long time as far as the rebuilding process, but I think it’s exciting. These fans deserve some good basketball.” Harden was drafted by the Thunder in 2009, and was flipped in 2012 to the Rockets. George spent 2017-19 with Oklahoma City, alongside Westbrook. And while he only spent two seasons with the Thunder, he developed a strong connection with the community. He had high praise for Thunder center Chet Holmgren. “He’s a talent,” George said. “We didn’t quite figure it out because he’s not necessarily a big. He can play and move like a guard and a wing, so he gave us some problems.” Westbrook was drafted by the Thunder in 2008, and played there until 2019, winning an MVP in 2017. “It’s like home for me,” Westbrook said. “I grew up here… I’m grateful and gracious for their appreciation of the way I play basketball and the way I compete.”
  • The Nuggets, much vaunted for their offense, have seen their efforts on the other end of the ball come to the fore of late, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post details. In the second half of an eventual 102-95 win over the Hornets, Denver outscored Charlotte 17-0 to start the third frame, while the Hornets went 0-for-20 from the field at the opening of the quarter. “We wanted to win tonight because of our defense, not our offense,” defense-first power forward Aaron Gordon said.
  • Nuggets sixth man Reggie Jackson, who was a high school legend at nearby Palmer High School, is reveling in his pro time with Denver, Durando writes in another piece. A big element of his time in town now has been his ability to reconnect with old friends and teammates. “That’s the best part of being back,” Jackson said. “If I have the urge to go see somebody, I can just go drive down there. Getting to see my childhood friends, their families grow, and getting to experience that and actually be around. Being gone so long in the NBA, it’s fun to finally have these moments and be close to them. I’m happy to be back home.”

Injury Notes: Haliburton, Bam, K. Murray, Nuggets, Suns, Hornets

Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton is expected to be out for Saturday’s game against Miami, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Indiana’s best player is officially listed as questionable.

As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star tweets, Haliburton missed the team’s shootaround this morning due to a right knee bone bruise and an upper respiratory infection. The Pacers went just 6-20 without Haliburton last season, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Haliburton, who signed a five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extension in the offseason, is off to an All-NBA-caliber start to 2023/24, averaging career highs of 27.0 points and a league-leading 11.8 assists per game while posting an elite .519/.447/.880 shooting line. The Pacers host the Celtics on Monday for the quarterfinal of the league’s inaugural in-season tournament, so hopefully he’ll be back in time for that contest.

Heat center Bam Adebayo has also been ruled out of Saturday’s contest due to a left hip contusion, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscriber link) wouldn’t be surprised to see Orlando Robinson get the starting nod in his place, with Kevin Love continuing to come off the bench due to the synergy he’s developing with the second unit.

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

  • Kings forward Keegan Murray, the No. 4 overall pick of last year’s draft, will return on Saturday against Denver after missing four games due to lower back soreness, sources tell Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link). As for the Nuggets, Jamal Murray (ankle) and Aaron Gordon (heel) are questionable after missing Friday’s game against Phoenix, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).
  • Suns star Devin Booker is questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. Memphis, notes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Booker, who is dealing with an ankle sprain, missed Friday’s game against Denver. Eric Gordon is also questionable due to a right knee contusion.
  • Hornets backup center Nick Richards will return to action on Saturday after missing the previous six games while in the league’s concussion protocol, the team announced (via Twitter). No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller will also be available after missing Charlotte’s last game with a left ankle injury.