Aaron Gordon

Western Notes: MPJ, Alexander-Walker, Wemby, Morant, A. Holiday

With Aaron Gordon unavailable for the Nuggets‘ past three games due to a right heel injury, Michael Porter Jr. has seen more action at power forward and said the transition has been a smooth one, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links).

“It’s easier for me, I think, at the four. It’s more of a matchup for me,” Porter explained. “Those bigger guys guarding me, they don’t want to chase around screens. They don’t want to close out all the way. I can get by them easier. So, it’s fun playing the four. It’s fine playing the three, too, but it hasn’t been too much of an adjustment, because our offense is very fluid.”

Porter scored a season-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting in Denver’s victory over Houston on Wednesday. It remains to be seen which position he’ll spend the most time at on Friday, as Gordon is listed as questionable for the Nuggets’ contest in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn’t have much of a role for the rebuilding Jazz last season, but after a trade to Minnesota, he’s playing key minutes for a contending Timberwolves team, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Alexander-Walker had his best game of the season in a win over his former team on Thursday, racking up 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals in 36 minutes.
  • Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama has been on a tear lately, averaging 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 2.5 steals per night in his past four games. However, all four of those games were losses. The Spurs know they need more production out of other players on the roster to help the young phenom, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been subpoenaed to testify next month in an ongoing civil case related to an incident that occurred during a pickup game at his house during the summer of 2022. Lucas Finton of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday discussed a handful of topics, including his new role as a locker room leader, his early impressions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks as teammates, Alperen Sengun‘s development, and whether he and brothers Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday have talked about playing on the same team. “Yeah, but everything has to work out perfectly for that to happen,” Aaron said of his teaming up with his brothers. “It would be tough for that to happen, but obviously we’re all for it.”

Injury Notes: McCollum, Markkanen, Luka, Nuggets, Williams

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been ruled out of Monday’s contest in Utah, which will be his 12th consecutive missed game. However, the 32-year-old veteran is aiming to return to action later this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that McCollum could play either Wednesday against Philadelphia or Friday vs. San Antonio.

McCollum, who has been out since Nov. 4 with a collapsed lung, is averaging 21.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.8 RPG and 1.5 SPG on .440/.380/.742 shooting through six games this season. He was a full practice participant last week.

Another marquee player will be also sidelined for the matchup between the Pelicans and Jazz. Lauri Markkanen has been ruled out for the second straight game, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen observes (via Twitter), Markkanen was previously listed as having a sore left hamstring, but the injury is now classified as a strain — it’s possible the All-Star forward may have undergone some imaging to confirm the diagnosis. On a more positive note, Jordan Clarkson will return tonight after missing the previous game due to an illness.

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • The Mavericks received good news on Monday, as the left thumb injury that Luka Doncic sustained on Saturday isn’t serious. After undergoing an MRI, Doncic was diagnosed with a low-grade sprain and he will be available for Tuesday’s matchup with Houston, though he did wear a wrap on his thumb during Monday’s practice, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscriber link). Rookie center Dereck Lively practiced as well, but he’s questionable with a lower back contusion, Townsend adds.
  • Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon will miss his second straight game on Monday due to a right heel strain, while reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic is questionable due to lower back pain, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. As we previously relayed, Jamal Murray is out tonight, but he could return later this week.
  • Thunder wing Jalen Williams is available for Tuesday’s matchup vs. the Wolves, according to Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder (Twitter link). Last season’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year has missed three consecutive games with a left hip strain.

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Jokic, Gordon, Adelman, Murray

Nuggets coach Michael Malone and superstar Nikola Jokic were both ejected during the first half at Detroit on Monday. They watched in the locker room as the team pulled out a 107-103 victory over the downtrodden Pistons, Bennett Durando of the Denver Post writes.

“When you make a good play, we’re pumping our fists, we’re excited, we’re hugging,” Malone said. “And when you don’t make a good play, I’m cursing in Serbian.”

At times, Malone had to isolate himself during the tightly-contested game.

“I can’t just sit there,” he said. “I was in the back room, the training room, the locker room. And if (Detroit) went on a run, I’d go to a different room to see if I could switch the mojo up a little bit.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • David Adelman filled in for Malone, as he has in the past, and forward Aaron Gordon said Adelman is overdue for a head coaching job, he told Durando in the same story. “D.A. could be a head coach anywhere in the league,” Gordon said. “He deserves a head coach job. We’re lucky that he’s with us. We’re happy that he’s with us, for times like this.” Adelman interviewed for the Raptors’ head coaching opening this past offseason.
  • Gordon understands why Jokic has gotten frustrated with the officiating, Durando tweets. “He doesn’t need to apologize. They’re fouling him, and they’re not reffing him by the book,” Gordon said. “They’re putting two hands on him. They’re pushing him. It’s a foul.”
  • Jamal Murray hasn’t played since Nov. 4 due to a right hamstring strain and he’s unlikely to return during the current road trip, Katy Winge of AltitudeTV tweets. Malone said there’s “still some work to be done for him to be cleared.” Murray has been doing pregame workouts and some sprinting.
  • Malone has officially signed a multi-year extension. Get the details here.

Durant, Curry, LeBron, Other U.S. Stars Express Olympic Interest

The 2024 Olympics in Paris were a popular topic of discussion on media days around the NBA in Monday, with many of the league’s biggest American stars expressing interest in representing Team USA next summer.

Suns forward Kevin Durant, who won Olympic gold medals in 2012, 2016, and 2020, was adamant in addressing his 2024 plans, telling reporters, “I will play in the Olympics next year,” according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Durant’s Suns teammate Devin Booker also indicated that he would accept an invite from USA Basketball, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes, while KD’s former Warriors teammate Stephen Curry told reporters, “(I) definitely want to be on the team,” per Reynolds.

Lakers forward LeBron James, who was rumored last month to be recruiting his fellow U.S. stars to play at next year’s Olympics, confirmed his interest, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. His teammate Anthony Davis wasn’t prepared to commit yet, telling reporters that it’s too early to say whether he’ll play (Twitter link via Buha).

Of course, one of the biggest question marks for Team USA is Joel Embiid, who has yet to take part in an international competition and has citizenship in France and the U.S. in addition to his native Cameroon.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays (via Twitter), Embiid said today that he’d like to play in the Olympics but is still weighing his options. While the U.S. and France have already qualified, Cameroon will compete in a qualifying tournament next summer in the hopes of earning a spot in the 12-team Olympic field. Embiid, who was reportedly given an October 10 deadline by the French team, said he hopes to make his decision “in the next few days.”

“I love all three options,” Embiid said, per ESPN. “Cameroon, I’m born there, I’m from there and I always want to represent my country. But the goal is also to play in the Olympics. If we had a chance, or if we would qualify for the Olympics, that will be an easy decision. But that’s still up in the air. And I really do want to play in the Olympics.”

Here’s more on the potential Team USA roster, which can only accommodate 12 players:

Nuggets Notes: Championship, Porter, Gordon, Booth

The Nuggets‘ championship victory on Monday represented a major financial boon for a pair of the team’s forwards.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the final year of Michael Porter Jr.‘s five-year contract with the Nuggets is now fully guaranteed. Previously, only $12MM of Porter’s $40.8MM cap hit for 2026/27 had been guaranteed, but since Porter appeared in at least 62 games (plus 75% of Denver’s playoff contests) and the club won a title, he’s assured of the full $40.8MM.

Meanwhile, Aaron Gordon earned a $1MM bonus as a result of the championship, Marks tweets. That will bump Gordon’s cap charge for 2023/24 from $21.2MM to $22.2MM, since that $1MM incentive will now be considered “likely” (rather than unlikely) for next season. However, the Nuggets wouldn’t be on the hook for that bonus money next season unless they win another title.

Here’s more on the NBA’s new champions:

  • Porter averaged just 9.6 points per game on .328/.143/.750 shooting in five NBA Finals games, but his performance showed that he’s capable of contributing in other ways, which bodes well for his future development, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Porter grabbed 13 rebounds in Game 1 and again in Game 5, matching his season high.
  • After playing a major part in helping the Nuggets secure the first title in franchise history, star guard Jamal Murray said on Monday that he believes the club is capable of winning more championships with this core. “I knew once we were healthy, we could do it,” Murray, who missed all of the 2021/22 season due to a torn ACL, told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “So this was long overdue. … I think this is the first of many.”
  • Sam Amick and Tony Jones of The Athletic take a look at all the moves and decisions that led to Denver’s first championship, including the promotion of assistant GM Calvin Booth after the departure of veteran executive Tim Connelly in 2022. “When Tim left, I remember talking to (Nuggets governor) Josh (Kroenke), and saying, ‘Listen, this is your call, Josh, but what I’m telling you as a head coach who has been here for seven years, we’re heading in the right direction, I really hope that Calvin Booth is given the opportunity to take over,'” Michael Malone told The Athletic. “I said, ‘I know him, he knows me. He knows our players. He knows you.’ (Booth) did a great job of taking all that and saying, ‘OK, we’re in a good spot. But how do we go from good to great? How do we make this even better?’ And Calvin had the balls to do that, man.”
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) preview the roster and contract issues facing the Nuggets this offseason, including Bruce Brown‘s potential free agency and Jamal Murray’s extension eligibility. In case you missed it, Brown expressed a desire to remain in Denver following Monday’s victory.

Nuggets Win First Title, Jokic Named MVP

The Nuggets secured their first championship on Monday night, completing a 4-1 series victory over the Heat with a 94-89 victory. The Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976 after the league’s merger with the ABA.

Nikola Jokic, the league’s two-time Most Valuable Player in the regular season, was named the MVP of the Finals, NBA Communications tweets. He had 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in the clinching victory. For the series, Jokic averaged 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists per night.

Jokic and the team’s other star, Jamal Murray, carried the Nuggets throughout the playoffs. However, the team’s role players made some of the biggest plays in Game 5.

Bruce Brown had the go-ahead put-back in the late going and hit clinching free throws. In between, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a key steal and made two clutch free throws.

Denver is well-positioned to make a run at back-to-back titles and beyond. Jokic, Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. are all signed through at least the 2024/25 season. Caldwell-Pope has two more years left on his contract, though he can opt out next summer.

There’s a good chance Brown will go elsewhere. He will almost certainly decline his $6.8MM option and the team doesn’t own his Bird rights, limiting its ability to offer much of a raise.

Jeff Green and a handful of other veteran reserves will be unrestricted free agents, though the Nuggets have some quality young players on rookie contracts poised to take on bigger roles, including Christian Braun and Peyton Watson.

The Heat have some key players entering free agency, most notably Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Kevin Love.

With the Finals decided, the 2023 NBA offseason is officially underway. The draft will be held in 10 days with free agency beginning the following week.

Nuggets Notes: Potential Dynasty, Jackson, Reserves, Kamagate

The Nuggets are one victory away from their first NBA title, but they have the foundation in place to win several more, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that the team’s core players are all in their prime with Nikola Jokic at 28, Aaron Gordon at 27, Jamal Murray at 26 and Michael Porter Jr. at 24. All four are signed for at least two more seasons, and Denver isn’t facing any significant tax issues despite having three max contracts.

The only expected loss from this year’s rotation is Bruce Brown, a free agent addition last summer, who’s expected to turn down his $6.8MM player option and test the market again. The Nuggets don’t own Brown’s Bird rights and won’t be able to compete with the offers he’s likely to receive.

They may be in the same position with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope next year, Hollinger adds. Denver worked out an extension with the veteran guard after acquiring him from Washington, but he has a $15.4MM player option for 2024/25 that he might decide to decline.

Hollinger points out that Nuggets have navigated the cap by amassing young talent on affordable contracts. Late first-round picks Christian Braun and Peyton Watson will make a combined $4.5MM next season, and they both appear ready to become consistent rotation pieces.

There’s more from Denver:

  • Reggie Jackson hasn’t played much since signing with the Nuggets after a trade and a buyout in February, but the 33-year-old guard is happy to still be in the league, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Jackson thought about retiring when he was with the Pistons as persistent ankle injuries kept him off the court. “I can’t believe I’m here now,” he said. “Especially after Detroit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play anymore and then being resurrected in L.A. (with the Clippers). The build-up there, the fun there. Then being traded, it’s coming full circle.”’
  • Denver’s bench players have contributed to the championship run by not making waves about their playing time, observes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jackson, DeAndre Jordan, Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith and others have been content with limited minutes and sometimes none at all. Jones adds that the only Nuggets player who has been unhappy with his role this season was Bones Hyland, who was traded in February.
  • Ismael Kamagate, whom the Nuggets selected with the 46th pick last year, is finalizing an agreement to play for EA7 Emporio Armani Milan next season, tweets Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews. A recent report indicated that he likely wasn’t in Denver’s plans for 2023/24.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Brown, Jokic, Trade

The Nuggets dispelled any thought that they’re a one-man or two-man team during a crucial stretch of Game 4 with Nikola Jokic on the bench, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. As they did most of the night, the Heat blitzed Jamal Murray on the pick-and-roll, trying to take him out of the offense. That allowed Aaron Gordon to score a team-high 27 points, while Bruce Brown added 21, including 11 in the fourth quarter.

“They were giving Jamal so much attention that let’s get Jamal off the ball, let Bruce make some plays,” coach Michael Malone said. “… Maybe our offense may not be as beautiful as it is with Nikola, but the five guys that are out there are defending.”

The Nuggets managed to keep the game even during the five minutes without Jokic, something that rarely happened during the regular season. It was the latest accomplishment for a roster that has become convinced that it’s worthy of capturing a title.

“We’re just ready to win a championship,” Murray said. “We have the tools to do it. It’s been on our minds for a while. We’re just locked in. I don’t think you’ve got to overthink it. We’re just dialed in, ready to win.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Brown made an impression on the Nuggets with his performance in last year’s postseason, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. That resulted in a two-year, $13.2MM offer from Denver with a player option that might have Brown back on the market this summer. “I watched him in the playoffs last year (with the Nets) against Boston, saw his impact of guarding guys like (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown, but his ability to facilitate, play with the ball, play off the ball, make shots,” Malone said. “And the one thing I know about Bruce … he’s not afraid.”
  • Former NBA player turned agent Mike Miller takes credit for coming up with the “Joker” nickname for Jokic, Singer adds in a subscriber-only story. Miller, who was a veteran in Denver when Jokic broke into the league, quickly recognized that his talent and feel for the game were unique. “Just how good he was and how poised he was and how easy the game came to him at a young age,” Miller recalled. “And that to me was what made him special even early.”
  • The Nuggets are on the verge of the first title in franchise history, but this week’s draft pick trade with the Thunder shows that they’re working to win as many rings as possible before Jokic retires, says Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Brown, Murray, Braun, Kamagate

Nuggets stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray looked relatively mortal in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, combining for a series-low 38 points on 13-of-36 (36.1%) shooting as they faced increased attention from Heat defenders.

However, Denver still pulled out a victory thanks in large part to contributions from complementary players like Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown. Gordon scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting while also dishing six assists. Brown was 8-of-11 from the floor for 21 points. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN details, Gordon has exceeded the expectations the Nuggets had when they acquired him from Orlando at the 2021 trade deadline.

“We didn’t realize how talented he was,” Nuggets GM Calvin Booth told Shelburne after Game 4. “We didn’t realize what a consummate teammate he was and how willing he was to sacrifice.”

As for Brown, he became the latest reserve guard to play a starring role for the Nuggets on the road in this series after Christian Braun had an outsized impact in Game 3, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As with Gordon, the Nuggets knew they were getting a good player when they signed Brown in free agency last summer, but he has been even better than they hoped.

“Can I say that I envisioned him scoring 11 points (in the fourth quarter) on the road in Game 4 of the Finals?” head coach Michael Malone said on Friday. “I can’t say that. But I did envision him being a ball-handler, a play-maker.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • A floor burn suffered in the Nuggets’ Game 3 win didn’t have a major impact on Murray, whose increase in production from the regular season to the playoffs puts him in rare company, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger details, no player in NBA history has a bigger gap than Murray between his career regular PER (16.4) and his mark in the postseason (22.3).
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores why Braun is such an ideal fit in the backcourt next to Murray. The rookie is poised to take on a larger role in the Nuggets’ rotation next season and beyond, especially if the team is unable to re-sign Brown.
  • Having agreed to acquire a 2024 first-round pick from the Thunder, the Nuggets may use that selection – or their own 2024 first-rounder – in an effort to move up in this year’s draft, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The Nuggets own the No. 40 pick in 2023 and are also acquiring No. 37 in the deal with Oklahoma City, so they should have more than enough ammo to move into the first round if they’re willing to move a 2024 first-round pick.
  • French big man Ismael Kamagate, the 46th overall pick in the 2022 draft, will likely remain in Europe for at least one more year, sources tell Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Kamagate was drafted by the Nuggets last June but remained with Paris Basketball for the 2022/23 season. Denver “really likes” the 22-year-old, according to Wind, but wants to be patient with his development.

Nuggets Notes: Defense, Porter Jr., Malone, Pace, Green, Smith

Nuggets coach Michael Malone ripped into his team’s defensive effort in Game 2. During the team’s film session on Tuesday, Malone encouraged his players to talk through their mistakes and take responsibility for their assignments. Forward Michael Porter Jr. didn’t mind the tone, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

“You definitely gotta own it,” he said. “You can’t be sensitive. Me personally, I know I gotta play better. If my teammates tell me that, I’m not going to be sensitive. If I tell that to someone else, like, ‘Yo, you gotta tell me if we need to work on switches.’ They’re not going to be sensitive.”

Porter knows he has to ramp up his game. He is shooting just 3-for-17 beyond the arc during the series, along with some defensive lapses.

“I think intensity and energy wasn’t where it needed to be from me personally or really the team as a whole,” he said. “We can talk about the mistakes that we had defensively, but really, it’s about intensity.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone wants to see his team increase the tempo in Game 3 on Wednesday but they have to play better defensively to make that happen, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. “We want to play fast; they want to play slow,” he said. “When you’re not getting stops, advantage Miami Heat because now they have their 2-2-1 press back to the zone. We’re playing way too slow to try to attack that, which is forcing a lot of late-clock situations for us.”
  • Veteran forward Jeff Green, who will be a free agent after the series, said he made a point of taking Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown under his wing. “I’m here to push them to be better,” Green told Rob Mahoney of The Ringer. “Make sure that they’re doing what they need to do for us to win, but also for their career to go to the next level. Together we’ve been great, and that’s just a culmination of our relationship and trying to understand each other.”
  • Ish Smith has barely played in the postseason but the journeyman point guard, who is on his 13th team, could win his first championship ring if Denver takes the series. Smith will be a free agent after the season and hopes to get another opportunity. “Until they cut off the lights and say don’t come back, I’m going to be out here playing,” he told Ryan McFadden of the Denver Post. “You’re still going to see No. 14 running fast.”