Christian Braun

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Key, Tyson, KCP, Jokic, Murray

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was back on the sidelines for Thursday’s preseason finale after spending some time away from the team following the death of his father. However, even during his absence, Malone didn’t stop coaching his players, according to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post, who writes that the veteran coach sent a text message to two-way player Braxton Key before Tuesday’s preseason game telling him to slow down on offense.

“I was just doing some things that were uncharacteristic. Trying to do a little too much at the offensive end. So I listened to him,” said Key, who responded with 14 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday vs. the Clippers.

As Durando notes, Key wasn’t the only young Nuggets player to get a message from Malone ahead of Tuesday’s contest. Michael channeled his late father Brendan in a text he sent to rookie Hunter Tyson.

“I said don’t ever lose your confidence,” Malone recalled. “That’s something my father told me for years. Don’t let anybody take away your confidence. I said, ‘Hunter, you’re a good shooter. And I see you hesitating now, I see you tentative.’ I said, ‘If you’re open, shoot the ball. Make or miss, shoot the ball. That’s what you do.'”

Tyson, who made just 9-of-28 field goal attempts (32.1%) and 5-of-19 three-pointers (26.3%) in his first three preseason games, responded by scoring 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3-of-7 threes), Durando writes.

Here’s more on the defending champions:

  • Speaking to Mark Medina of Sportskeeda about a variety of topics, Nuggets wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope expressed confidence in the team’s depth even after the offseason departures of key role players like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. “We already know what Christian Braun can do with stepping into that role that Bruce had,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re still going to be great. I still feel we haven’t lost a step.”
  • Nuggets star Nikola Jokic didn’t suit up for the Serbian national team in this year’s World Cup, but Bozidar Maljkovic, the president of the Olympic Committee of Serbia, expressed confidence in an interview with Juan Jimenez of that the two-time MVP will be playing in Paris in the 2024 Olympics, per
  • Jamal Murray‘s torn ACL cost him a full regular season and two postseasons, but Jokic believes the guard has gotten to the point now where he’s even better than he was before the injury (story via “He’s much better. Not even close. … Mature, experienced,” Jokic said. “I think just because the injury slowed him down, so he needed to read a little bit better. Maybe it sounds stupid, but the injury helped him.”
  • As part of an interview with Katie Heindl of Uproxx, Murray said he appreciates how the Nuggets’ front office has handled its business since he joined the franchise. “These guys do a good job of communicating what’s happening or what they’re thinking,” Murray said. “I just like how they treat us like human beings that have families and lives and houses and mortgages and all that stuff, you know? It’s nice to get an update every once in a while about work.”

Nuggets Notes: Booth, Braun, Hyland, Strawther, More

The 2023 NBA champion Nuggets took a hit when they lost Bruce Brown in free agency this offseason, but Denver has the infrastructure in place to continue developing rotation threats to help win rings, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth has a plan in place for a dynasty, according to Amick, and sees the widespread public doubt following Brown’s departure as “disproportionate.”

Amick writes that Booth is high on Christian Braun, whom he compares to early-career Jimmy Butler and sees as a headlining piece of Denver’s core. Booth knows supplementing stars with rotational talent is key to maintaining a winning culture, and Braun has already impressed the organization enough to earn that level of trust. Amick notes Booth said the team explored signing Torrey Craig, who wound up with Chicago, but ultimately felt good about the development of Braun and Peyton Watson.

The Nuggets also drafted several young pieces — Jalen Pickett, Julian Strawther and Hunter Tyson as well as keeping 22-year-old Zeke Nnaji on board.

We’re going to have to learn to block the outside noise,” Booth said. “Like, ‘Why didn’t you put a veteran team together and try to repeat?’ You have to be willing to take all that criticism, because I don’t think it’s the right thing — especially for this team and the developmental stage we’re at — to go quote-unquote all-in on a repeat. So we don’t get the repeat. Then what? What if we won one out of the next two? What if we won two out of the next four?

Booth is of course high on superstar Nikola Jokic, but also believes Reggie Jackson can be a contender for Sixth Man of the Year and Jamal Murray will be motivated by the potential of earning a super-max extension next summer, Amick writes.

We have more Nuggets notes:

  • A similar piece from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor emphasizes Booth’s confidence in his team and desire to build a dynasty. O’Connor notes the challenges the Nuggets, like other teams, face as a result of the tax measures in the new CBA, and explains their philosophy in bringing in young players. Of note, O’Connor mentions one of Booth’s first moves was to ship out promising youngster Bones Hyland at the trade deadline this year. “I knew you couldn’t have two guys that couldn’t guard, and we couldn’t have two guys that were young and kind of more ‘me guys,’” Booth said. “[Michael Porter Jr.] makes $30 million. He’s one of the best shooters in the NBA. So, Bones, there’s no place for you.
  • Murray has taken Strawther under his wing, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. The rookie has been standing out in the preseason and is attempting to earn a regular season role. Murray sees potential in the Gonzaga product. “I’m just trying to keep him thinking and let him play free,” Murray said. “I just love his aggressive mindset. Miss, make, turnover, whatever it is. He’s staying constantly aggressive and looking for his shot and playing at his own pace.
  • Strawther is making it difficult for the Nuggets to not call plays for him with his play of late, Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes. The No. 29 pick in the 2023 draft is averaging 19.7 points and shooting 50% on eight three-point attempts per game in the preseason. The Nuggets made him the first player off the bench in their Sunday preseason game and he shared the floor with members the championship starting lineup. “You’re crazy if you think I’m on the floor with Nikola and Jamal and they’re going to be worried about what I’m doing,” Strawther said. “My job is just ultimately to space the floor and make shots when I’m on the floor with those guys.
  • Porter and Braun are progressing from ankle and calf injuries, respectively, Wind tweets. According to Wind, the hope is that they play Thursday in Los Angeles for the Nuggets’ final preseason game against the Clippers.

Nuggets Picking Up Christian Braun’s Third-Year Option

The Nuggets are picking up their third-year option on Christian Braun, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

It’s a mere formality, as Braun has already earned a prominent role with the defending champions. There was no doubt Denver would retain him on his rookie scale contract.

Braun is expected to be the first reserve off the bench in his second season. He appeared in 76 regular season games as a rookie, averaging 4.7 points in 15.5 minutes per game, and saw action in 19 playoff games, contributing 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per contest.

The 21st overall pick of last year’s draft, Braun’s third-year option for the 2024/25 season is worth $3,089,640. He’ll make $2,949,120 this season and Denver holds a fourth-year option worth $4,921,797, which must be exercised by the end of next October.

Nuggets Notes: Watson, Porter Jr., Murray, Braun, Jordan, Nnaji

Nuggets forward Peyton Watson isn’t lacking for confidence. He feels he’ll have a breakout season, he told Harrison Wind of Watson is looking to be a rotation player and earn an invite to the Rising Stars game on All-Star weekend.

“I feel like I’m one of the best second-year guys in the league,” he said.

Watson keeps close tabs on Nikola Jokic and wants to emulate the superstar center’s approach.

“I literally watch everything he does,” Watson said. “He never takes any shortcuts. He does everything the right way every day. He doesn’t cut any corners. I really watch all those things because I want to be on that level one day. I feel like I can be an All-NBA player one day. And I take it very seriously. So I watch everything he does. I admire his game and I admire what he does to have his game on that level.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Michael Porter Jr. is unlikely to play in Denver’s preseason opener on Tuesday due to an ankle injury. Jamal Murray and Christian Braun were both limited at practice on Monday, coach Michael Malone told Wind and other media members (Twitter links). Murray has a mild hamstring issue while Braun has a calf injury.
  • Jokic’s backup could vary depending upon the opponent and situation, according to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. DeAndre Jordan and Zeke Nnaji are the two candidates. “I think sometimes it will be dependent on who we’re playing,” Malone said. “There are a few teams in the Western Conference that play really big, and those could be great games for D.J. We love the defensive versatility that Zeke brings in terms of being able to switch one through five. So having the balance of using either one of those guys depending on who you’re playing I think is helpful for us.”
  • Jordan, who re-signed with the Nuggets on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal, is unconcerned about his playing time, Durando adds. “I want to win basketball games. I want to win another championship,” he said. “I want to win with this group of guys. And we all have different pieces that make this machine work. Whoever’s out there, they give us the best chance to win. … I think this group last year was big on being selfless. And if it’s Zeke’s night, I’m going to be the first one that’s cheering for him because I want him to be successful.”

Northwest Notes: Holmgren, Durant, Braun, Nuggets, Jazz

Thunder big man Chet Holmgren worked out with Suns superstar Kevin Durant in California during the summer. Holmgren said he absorbed plenty from the 13-time All-Star, according to Jordan Davis of The Oklahoman.

“I was just trying to learn the game from him,” Holmgren said. “I had some Thunder staff with me out there this summer and he knows a lot of people in the building. He’s great. He’s always spreading the love and it’s all love coming from him.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Christian Braun won’t fulfill all of the duties that Bruce Brown performed for the Nuggets last season but the second-year guard will get plenty of playing time, general manager Calvin Booth told the Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. “When you’re talking about apples-to-apples replacement (of Brown), you’re talking about Christian Braun,” Booth said. “And Christian, I think, has improved his ball-handling a ton, but he won’t be playing any backup point guard. … Christian Braun is going to bring a lot of the same things Bruce brought, but Bruce played on the ball more.”
  • Beyond Braun, the Nuggets’ reserves will have to battle for playing time, Durando writes in a separate story. “I’m not giving any minutes away,” coach Michael Malone said. “Nothing’s going to be given to anybody. … If anybody out there, players, think that they’re automatically going to be given minutes as a backup, they’re mistaken. They’re going to have to earn that. I’m not giving anything away.”
  • The Jazz began training camp in Hawaii. Coach Will Hardy is breaking camp into two segments, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. “We’ve got this chunk before our first two preseason games, which come quickly,” Hardy said. “But then we get back to Salt Lake and we have a nice four-day period where we can really dig in at that point. And we’ll have enough film — having seen two games, having a nice chunk of practices — to sort of make some adjustments and tweaks. That’s sort of phase two of training camp.”

Nuggets Notes: Booth, Jokic, Strawther, Jackson, Holiday

In an interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth discussed a number of topics, including his roster-building philosophy within the financial constraints of the new CBA, maximizing the team’s championship window, attempting to repeat in 2023/24, and more.

While Booth says the Nuggets will certainly miss departed veterans Bruce Brown, Jeff Green and Ish Smith, he expressed confidence that Denver has players who can contribute off the bench, such as Christian Braun, Justin Holiday and Peyton Watson.

Justin has been polished and has been around for a while,” Booth said. “I know he didn’t shoot the ball the best last season, but I feel like he has taken on the challenge to make sure he has a good year. He played fantastic in the intrasquad scrimmages. He made shots. He’s in the right spots. He guards.

For Christian, the game has slowed down. He’s a two-way player. He brings athleticism, strength to the game, and the ability to make a shot. Christian will automatically start in Bruce’s role. He started in the scrimmages [on Friday]. Naturally, with more minutes and responsibilities, that opportunity for growth will be there.

Justin Holiday is a pro. But guys like Peyton Watson, he’s seeing the game slow down and learning how to be a professional off the court, having a routine that he sticks to and getting work in. Let the chips fall where it may after you put the work in because a 21-year-old kid is going to make mistakes. The game is going to look fast for him. At other times, it’s going to look like he’s a master with everything. We have to roll with the punches with him because he’s a really talented kid.”

Here are a few more notes on the defending champions:

  • Finals MVP Nikola Jokic appears to be at ease entering ’23/24, which should bode well for the Nuggets, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. “I think our biggest concern with Nikola was just him being homesick,” head coach Michael Malone said. “We all like to be home with our friends and our family, and for him, his horses. Since he’s been back, we haven’t seen any signs of him being down in the dumps. He’s becoming an even better leader, not always just vocal, but with body language. He’s in a good place, and because of that, the team is in a good place. And it’s hard not to be. We’ve had a great run. We won a championship. And we’ve worked hard this week.”
  • Rookie wing Julian Strawther and veteran point guard Reggie Jackson recently sat down for interviews with Adam Mares and Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (YouTube link). Strawther, Denver’s 2023 first-round pick (29th overall), says the Nuggets’ unselfishness and team play has stood out in his first NBA training camp. “I feel like that’s what really sets us apart from the rest of the league is just, everyone is so bought in,” he said. “And it’s kind of like a lost art today in basketball. Everybody’s kind of playing for themselves around the league.”
  • Jackson and Holiday may have earned rotation roles with strong performances in training camp, Wind writes for DNVR Sports. Forward Braxton Key, who is on a two-way contract, also had some good moments in the portion of Friday’s scrimmage that was open to the media, according to Wind.

Nuggets Notes: Braun, Holiday, Porter, Malone, Title Defense

In a lengthy interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Nuggets wing Christian Braun discussed a number of topics, including an opportunity for an expanded role in his second season following the free agency departure of Bruce Brown. When asked how Denver could mitigate the loss of Brown, Braun said he’s ready to step up to the plate.

I was fortunate enough to learn a lot from him and from KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope),” Braun said. “I was fortunate enough to be around guys who are similar to me in a lot of ways. Bruce and I are similar in a lot of ways, but we’re also different. We bring different things to the court, whether it’s defensive intensity, transition scoring or being a pest. We’re similar, so I think I can fill that role pretty easily.

Obviously, he’s a great player and did a lot of great things for us in big moments, too. So there is definitely some expanding to my game that I need to do. But with watching him and his effort every night, I think that’s a big reason why he was so good. That’s also something that I’m really good at, so I think I will fit into that role well.”

As far as his goals for 2023/24, Braun said he’s more focused on helping the Nuggets defend their title than earning individual accolades.

My goals stay the same,” Braun told Medina. “We’re no individual. We’ll make sure we win as a team. We’ll emphasize on starting off on the right foot, get the No. 1 seed and make sure everybody knows our goal is the same. We’re not satisfied with one. We’re trying to turn this thing into a dynasty. We’re trying to turn it into something consistent every year so that we’re consistently fighting for a championship every year.

It’s not about my individual goals. I do know I’m going to have a bigger role this year. But I know what comes with that. I know we’ll compete for a championship for the next few years.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Veteran wing Justin Holiday is already making an impact with his new team and is pleased with his decision to join the Nuggets in free agency, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “My game is made for the way the Denver Nuggets play,” Holiday said. “This organization is a championship-caliber organization. Obviously, they just won, but how they do things, what they expect from us, and that’s something I appreciate. After the organization, the players. No egos. You’ve got the best player in the world, the best few players in the world, and guys are cool on the court. They put you in actions with them.” Holiday signed a one-year, minimum-salary deal with Denver this offseason.
  • Forward Michael Porter Jr. sustained a left ankle sprain during Wednesday’s practice and left the gym in a walking boot, Wind adds in the same story. A source tells Wind that the Nuggets aren’t concerned with the injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Porter rests a few days for precautionary reasons.
  • After the Lakers said they were motivated by Denver’s trash talk after being swept in the Western Conference Finals, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone dismissed any friction and is focused on the present, not the past. “Oh, they’re talking about us? That was what, four months ago?” Malone said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I can’t speak for anybody in L.A., but if they’re still worried about us, that’s on them. This is a new season, a new challenge, and it was a hell of a series against them. I know it was a 4-0 sweep, but all those games seemed like they went down to the wire. We have tremendous respect for that team. I have tremendous respect for Darvin Ham as a coach and the job that he did. But yeah, I don’t listen to any of that stuff. I don’t know what they’re saying, and if we’re on their minds, then I guess that’s on them.”
  • The Nuggets are focused on defending their championship by maintaining their strong work ethic and team play, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. “If we want to try and be the team that can repeat, and the team that can be a dynasty, we have to have a standard of excellence each and every day,” Malone said. “And it’s going to be my job to hold the guys accountable when we’re not playing well.”

Northwest Notes: George, Edwards, Reid, Braun

Jazz rookie Keyonte George has been cleared to resume all on-court activities, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets via a team statement.

George was named to the Las Vegas Summer League First Team despite suffering a right ankle sprain. The Baylor product, who was drafted with the No. 16 pick, could be in the mix for the Jazz’s starting point guard job.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards is one of the top options for Team USA this summer heading into the World Cup. Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley expects Edwards to be better than ever during the upcoming NBA season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. “He’s working on all facets of his game. He’s hungry, he’s angry, he’s all that at the same time,” Conley said. “It’s going to be really fun to see his development and how he comes back this season.”
  • Timberwolves center Naz Reid is no longer under the radar after signing a three-year, $42MM extension. He told Krawczynski that he’s fine with the added pressure that comes with the contract. “Bigger role, bigger expectations,” Reid said. “So I’m definitely going to show I’ve improved, in every facet of the game, maturity, basketball or whatever the case may be. Higher pay comes higher responsibility. This is what comes with it. So I’m ready for it.”
  • What player needs to step up the most for the Nuggets to repeat as champions? Harrison Wind of DNVR Nuggets believes Christian Braun fits that description with the anticipation that Braun can expand his offensive contributions.

Western Notes: Braun, Thunder Arena, Jones, Gordon

The Nuggets lost a key all-around performer in Bruce Brown during free agency. That could thrust second-year guard Christian Braun into an expanded role and he’s eager to show he can handle it, he told Sean Keeler of the Denver Post.

“I want that challenge. I want a bigger role and I think everybody wants a bigger role,” he said. “But the fact that the Nuggets show confidence in me and (in) our young guys to come in and take over that role and make that next step means a lot to me. And obviously, I’m going to prove them right.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Oklahoma City mayor David Holt doesn’t want to raise taxes to help pay for a new arena for the Thunder, according to Jana Hayes of The Oklahoman. He’d prefer to extend a temporary sales tax. “We just know that we won’t make a proposal that raises the tax rate,” he said. Negotiations are ongoing, including the potential cost of the arena and terms of the lease agreement.
  • Suns general manager James Jones believes the team’s experience can lead to a championship, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. After numerous free agent signings, the Suns have a dozen players who are 26 and older. “Versatility and balance and more importantly, experience. It takes a unique combination of skill, and know-how to navigate a regular season and a postseason,” Jones said. “You have to have success and failures in the postseason to understand what it actually takes to, ultimately, to be successful and win a championship.”
  • In a subscriber-only story, Gerald Bourguet of describes how Eric Gordon‘s offensive skills could make an impact on a top contender. Gordon signed a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Suns after the Clippers declined to guarantee his original $20.9MM salary for next season.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Jazz, Timberwolves Moves, Brown, Jackson, Braun, Wallace

The Jazz will have internal discussions about getting involved in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

If they make a run for him, the Jazz could put together an impressive package of expiring contracts and future first-round picks for the Trail Blazers All-Star guard, who requested a trade this weekend. He’d instantly transform a team with a suddenly formidable frontcourt and quality depth into a contender.

The downside is Lillard’s age, defensive deficiencies and gargantuan contract. Jones explores the pros and cons of a potential Jazz trade for Lillard and ultimately concludes it would be worth it, as long as they set a strict limit on what they would give up.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves, after extending Naz Reid, made a number of under-the-radar moves in free agency to help them avoid future tax issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. They divvied up their mid-level exception to acquire Shake Milton and Troy Brown, as well as re-signing Nickeil Alexander-Walker via his Bird rights. All of the contracts were two-year deals. Thus, their roster is almost all set for next season and the combined salaries are below the luxury tax threshold.
  • After losing Bruce Brown in free agency to Indiana, the Nuggets have a huge hole to fill in their rotation. Jones explores how Denver will fill up those available minutes. Reggie Jackson, who is re-signing with the club on a two-year deal, is slated to be the backup point guard. Christian Braun will see his minutes expand, presumably as a combo guard.  Denver could also add another piece via free agency to improve its depth.
  • Due to trade restrictions, Cason Wallace will miss the Thunder’s three Summer League games in Salt Lake City, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. Wallace was chosen with the No. 10 pick in a draft-night swap with the Mavericks, who also shipped forward Davis Bertans to OKC in exchange for the No. 12 pick. The trade can’t be finalized until at least Thursday, forcing Wallace to miss those games. However, he’ll be eligible to play in the Las Vegas Summer League.