Justin Holiday

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Watson, Holiday

Nikola Jokic was awarded the Michael Jordan trophy as this season’s Most Valuable Player prior to the tip-off of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday. Then the Nuggets star went and showed why he won the award for a third time, dismantling the Timberwolves and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert with 40 points and 13 assists in a victory that gave Denver a 3-2 edge in the series.

As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes, Jokic made 15-of-22 shots from the floor, including 8-of-9 when Gobert was his primary defender, en route to a performance that teammate Aaron Gordon referred to as “incredible,” “astounding,” and “ridiculous.” Even Jokic’s opponents couldn’t help but be in awe of the way the big man played on Tuesday.

“I just laugh,” Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards said. “That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad, because he’s good, man. I think I said that after Game 1, when we won, and Game 2. He’s the MVP. He’s the best player in the NBA; he showed it the last three games, three games in a row. .. He was special tonight. I got to give him his flowers. I don’t know what we were supposed to do.”

Head coach Michael Malone, who lauded Jokic for his basketball smarts and said he “probably belongs to Mensa,” pointed out that the timing of the superstar center receiving his latest Most Valuable Player trophy was more appropriate than the timing of the initial MVP announcement.

“Nikola was named MVP after that (106-80) Game 2 loss,” Malone said. “And I think the last three games he has shown everybody why he is arguably one of the best players to play this game.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Gordon, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 5 win, has been a crucial X-factor for Denver in the series, writes Ryan McFadden of The Denver Post (subscription required). In an in-depth feature published prior to Tuesday’s contest, Rob Mahoney of The Ringer explored how Gordon has “found his basketball destiny” with the Nuggets, adding a component to the roster that helped the team reach its ceiling.
  • In an entertaining story for The Athletic, Sam Amick details how Gordon has been left out of recent team dinners since he was the only Nuggets player who didn’t make it to last Thursday’s dinner in Minneapolis before the Nuggets won their first game of the series following two straight losses. Denver hasn’t want to risk messing with what’s working by changing its routine since then. Reggie Jackson said that dinner ahead of Game 3 helped the team stop being so tense: “We needed to be around each other. We knew what we had to do, and we knew we had something to accomplish. But it was time between the games to breathe and relax and talk about life. That really helped.”
  • In the first round of the playoffs, Peyton Watson averaged 12.0 minutes per game off the bench, while veteran Justin Holiday played just 7.1 MPG. In the second round, Holiday has seen his minutes jump to 18.3 per contest while Watson has essentially fallen out of the rotation. Bennett Durando of The Denver Post explores the thinking behind the rotation tweak, explaining that the Nuggets are prioritizing Holiday’s offense over Watson’s defense. “Just trying to find a lineup that can give us the best chance to have success,” Malone said last week. “With the way (the Timberwolves) guard and how effective they are defensively, sometimes you have to put your best offensive lineup out there to give yourself a chance to score and stay in the game.”
  • Now that the Nuggets have regained the upper hand in their series vs. Minnesota and are just one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, Dan Wolken of USA Today argues that Denver is the clear favorite to win its second consecutive championship.

Northwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Nuggets/Wolves Series, Brogdon

Timberwolves wing Nickeil Alexander-Walker injured his shoulder in Game 3 against the Nuggets, according to The Star Tribune’s Chris Hine (Twitter link). He appeared to have trouble taking off his jersey after the game.

Right now, it hurts,” Alexander-Walker told reporters on Friday night. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I wake up and everything’s settled.

Initially seen as something of a throw-in in the trade that sent Mike Conley to Minnesota, Alexander-Walker has emerged as one of the most important rotation pieces for the Wolves. In his fifth NBA season, Alexander-Walker is continuing to establish himself as a reliable defender and averaged 8.0 points and 2.5 assists per game off the bench this season. We’ll have to wait for more updates to get a sense of whether or not he’ll have to miss time.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • After looking out of sorts in the first two games of the series, the Nuggets stormed back to blow out the Timberwolves on Minnesota’s home court in Game 3. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, poor screening and offensive pace negatively affected their defense, allowing Denver to fall into a 2-0 hole. Behind Nikola Jokic‘s 24 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three blocks and three steals, the Nuggets have made the matchup a series once again.
  • Head coach Michael Malone tested the Nuggets‘ belief in themselves following their Game 2 blowout loss, The Athletic’s Tony Jones writes. After Monday’s blowout loss, Malone challenged his players to not run from what happened, but to confront why they lost — he also showed his team a series of video clips of NBA analysts declaring Denver’s season over. Additionally, Malone changed up the sets and the rotations, with Jokic and Jamal Murray playing nearly the entire game. Reserve wing Justin Holiday has become a key part of this series, hitting six three-pointers in his last two games. All of this culminated in the Nuggets‘ best performance this postseason.
  • The Timberwolves desperately need to find their identity again if they’re going to win the series against Denver, The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins writes. “We didn’t want to work very hard for our offense and got a little bit lazy and we missed those shots,” coach Chris Finch said. “We did miss a lot of layups early. Generally, when you’re doing that, you’re not playing in the right mindset.Anthony Edwards said he would take the blame for the loss, but as The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski writes, there’s plenty Minnesota needs to address in the rest of the series. The Wolves allowed Jamal Murray to get hot in Game 3 and let Aaron Gordon get involved with Rudy Gobert sagging off him.
  • Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon has applied for Polish citizenship, according to BasketNews (Twitter link). The Rose Garden Report’s Sean Highkin explains that Brogdon’s wife’s father is Polish and that there’s been talk that Brogdon could play for Poland’s national team in the Olympic qualifying tournament in July (Twitter link). However, nothing is finalized at this moment.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Edwards, Holiday, Hayward, Banton

A Northwest division showdown in Denver on Wednesday night will go a long way toward determining which team controls the No. 1 seed in this year’s Western Conference playoffs. The Nuggets and Timberwolves will enter the evening with matching 55-24 records and only three games left to play.

Both teams will be on the second end of a back-to-back set. On Tuesday, the Nuggets picked up a 16-point win in Utah, with Jamal Murray scoring 28 points in just 27 minutes of action in his second game back following a seven-game injury absence. Murray is still on a minutes restriction, but looked fresh in the fourth quarter when Denver needed him most, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post.

“Seven games off will do that for you,” Murray told reporters in his post-game media session. “So I feel good. It’s just good to get a flow out there. It’s more conditioning. Your breathing and muscle fatigue throughout the game. … Felt good, comfortable and just ready to play.”

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the Timberwolves kept pace in the race for No. 1 by registering a 130-121 victory over Washington. It was a memorable night for Anthony Edwards, who scored a career-high 51 points while also dishing seven assists. After the win, Edwards credited head coach Chris Finch for making sure he didn’t let up against one of the NBA’s worst teams.

“He put me in the office two, three days ago and said, ‘Look man, we’ve got this Washington game, and we need to win it, need to come ready to play and you can’t treat it like any other game,'” Edwards said (story via ESPN).

The Timberwolves hold the tiebreaker edge over the Nuggets, so if they can pick up a win tonight, their magic number for the top seed in the West will be down to just one.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was noncommittal on Tuesday when asked if Justin Holiday will be part of his playoff rotation, he indicated he would be comfortable leaning on the veteran swingman, Durando writes for The Denver Post. “I trust him 100%,” Malone said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been around the league for a long time, and he’s proven in the one year with us, he’s proven himself to be trustworthy. Disciplined. Stays ready. Makes open shots. Guards. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. For a while, he was a guy that would play if there was an injury, and then for the last month or so he’s been a rotation player for us.”
  • The Thunder likely envisioned Gordon Hayward being part of their playoff rotation when they acquired him from Charlotte in February, but it has been a rough adjustment period for the veteran forward, who has averaged just 4.5 points in 16.5 minutes per game in his 23 appearances since the trade. As Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman writes, Hayward is still trying to get comfortable in his new reduced role. “Obviously would be probably better if I was here at the beginning of the year with everybody,” Hayward said. “Every team across the league will tell you that midseason trades are difficult to get everybody adjusted to everybody. Gotta work with what you’re given.”
  • After the Raptors declined to issue him a qualifying offer last June and the Celtics didn’t find room in the rotation for him in the first half of the season, Dalano Banton‘s NBA future appeared tenuous. However, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic details, Banton has enjoyed a career renaissance with the Trail Blazers, averaging 16.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 28 games (28.5 MPG) since being sent to Portland in a salary-dump deal at the trade deadline. The Blazers hold a minimum-salary team option for 2024/25 on Banton, who says he “learned a lot” as a reserve in Boston earlier this season.

Western Notes: Watson, Lakers, Nance, Rose

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone made a late decision to start Peyton Watson in place of injured forward Aaron Gordon on Thursday and the second-year wing responded in a major way, scoring a career-high 20 points and making four three-pointers as Memphis gave him room on the perimeter, as Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post details.

“They didn’t guard him early but he stayed with it and he didn’t lose confidence,” Malone said. “That can mess with you, but I thought Peyton did a really good job. I think he knows we have faith and confidence in him, and let’s be honest, Peyton Watson knows he’s a huge part of our future.”

Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (Twitter link) referred to it as a “statement decision” by Malone to insert Watson into the starting five over Justin Holiday, who had started the previous four games that Gordon missed.

Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link) adds that the club had planned to approach that spot in the lineup on a game-by-game basis until Gordon gets healthy, but suggests Watson may have earned the role going forward with his performance on Thursday.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • After linking Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale to the Lakers in the offseason, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said this week in an episode of Hoops Tonight (YouTube link) that Los Angeles still has trade interest in the two Nets forwards. NetsDaily passes along Buha’s comments and explores whether a deal between the two teams is realistic.
  • Ankle, groin, and rib injuries sapped Larry Nance Jr. of much of his athleticism earlier in the season, but the Pelicans big man is now feeling as good as he has “in years,” he tells Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Nance, who played on Thursday for the first time since November 27, pointed to a dunk over Walker Kessler as an example of the type of play he wasn’t making a month or two ago. “It just felt good to get back to who I am,” Nance said. “Earlier in the season, I would have got that drop-off and tried to throw up some B.S. hook or some floater. I can make it. But that’s not who I am. That’s not what this team needs from me.”
  • Grizzlies guard Derrick Rose is loving being back in Memphis after spending a single college season with the Memphis Tigers 16 years ago, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Rose and his family had never bought a home in any of the cities he previously played in, but they did so in Memphis this year, with the 35-year-old hoping to stick around for the foreseeable future. “When I did leave (after college), I always wished that I stayed a little bit longer,” Rose said. “That’s crazy, like all the times we’ve had chances to purchase spots and our first purchase was in Memphis.”

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.”

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.”

Nuggets’ Michael Malone To Make Changes To Bench Rotation

The Nuggets concluded a 1-4 road trip by losing to the Rockets by 19 points on Friday, prompting coach Michael Malone to promise that changes to the rotation were on the way, as relayed by The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando.

I just told them,” Malone said. “Minutes, I’m gonna start playing different people. You just can’t go out there because you think you’re gonna play, and go out there and do nothing. You’ve gotta bring something to the party.

Denver’s bench was outscored 16-0 in the first half on Friday with Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Zeke Nnaji and Julian Strawther the headliners of the second unit. Braun had a good road trip, according to Durando, but Watson was a minus-24 and Strawther was a minus-36 during that stretch, while Nnaji was a minus-10 before Friday, a game in which he got pulled after one minute.

The Nuggets have put an emphasis on a two-timeline plan this offseason, as evidenced by using three draft picks this year and entrusting young players like Braun, Nnaji and Watson with heavy minutes. That plan is being put to the test with star guard Jamal Murray having been out since Nov. 4. Malone said he hopes Murray comes back “really, really soon,” according to Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter link).

One such change is seemingly going to be a minutes increase for Justin Holiday, according to Durando. Holiday only averages 8.2 minutes and has seen time in just six games, but he drew praise from Malone after Friday’s contest.

I thought Justin played pretty well,” Malone said. “So we’ll see. We’re going home. Very disappointing road trip. … That’s the challenge when you have so many young, unproven players off the bench. But we also have games to win, and that delicate balance is a tightrope. But we need to win, and I’m gonna play the guys that are gonna help us get a win.”

Even though Reggie Jackson hasn’t been able to replicate what Murray brought to the starting lineup, Malone continues to praise the guard, whose production helped offset the bench’s issues when Murray was healthy.

We’re playing lineups out there with no point guard,” Malone said. “We probably had quite a few minutes of that tonight. … Reggie, I think, has done a really good job in place of Jamal. But just like if Nikola goes down, we don’t have another Nikola Jokic. We don’t have another Jamal Murray.

Outside of turning to Holiday, Denver’s options off the bench are limited. Vlatko Cancar was expected to play a bigger role this year but is missing the season with an ACL injury he suffered in August. Denver also has rookies Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson under standard contracts but that might not solve the issue of giving too much responsibility to younger players.

Outside of that, the only other veteran who isn’t currently a part of the rotation is 35-year-old DeAndre Jordan. Two-way players Collin Gillespie, Jay Huff and Braxton Key could also be in line for minutes.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Kessler, Collins, George, Holiday, Jokic

With Damian Lillard traded and Anfernee Simons injured, Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant is averaging a career-high 22.8 points through eight games. Grant was the focal point of Detroit’s offense in 2020/21, when he averaged 22.3 PPG, so he’s familiar with being a No. 1 option. Yet it remains an unusual role for him.

“I’m pushing Jerami to shoot it more because we need it,” Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups told Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. “A lot of times he has opportunities and it’s not his nature to do so.”

Grant signed a five-year, $160MM contract with the Blazers this summer.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Walker Kessler‘s elbow sprain will delay the answer to a key question for the Jazz. Can John Collins and Kessler be effective together? Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes that the spacing on offense is better without Collins and Kessler on the court together, but the defense is even weaker. Utah has allowed more than 120 points in its last four games.
  • On a positive note for the Jazz, rookie Keyonte George has been poised and measured well beyond his years even before he was thrust into a starting role, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Jones notes that Jordan Clarkson has scored a combined 59 points in two games since George took over at the point and Lauri Markkanen had an efficient offensive game against the Grizzlies on Friday.
  • Journeyman Justin Holiday hasn’t played much for the Nuggets this season but he’s gotten an up close look at the brilliance of Nikola Jokic, who is posting MVP-style numbers again. “No matter who comes in here, who does what, Jokic doesn’t get too high or too low,” Holiday told Harrison Wind of TheDnvr.com. “I know he enjoys playing basketball, but if you saw him — I know a lot of people talk about his expressions — he just goes out there, he’s going to kill you, and then go onto the next game. He doesn’t care about the personal accolades, which I think is pretty cool.” Denver added Holiday, who has played in three games, on a one-year deal this summer.

Northwest Notes: Holiday, Reid, Ayton, Scoot, Jazz

Nuggets swingman Justin Holiday will celebrate his 35th birthday before the end of the 2023/24 season and has seen his playing time dip in recent years. While the 11th-year veteran believes he still has plenty left in the tank, he admitted to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post that he has been forced to think about how much longer he’ll play before retirement.

“Have I thought about hanging it up? Heck yeah,” Holiday said. “I mean, I have kids. I have a family. So that thought always comes, especially when you get moved around a lot.

“So yeah, I’ve thought about it. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t. I’ve been kind of forced to. My wife’s had conversations like, ‘When are you gonna be done?’ So it’s not like I’m just sitting here (thinking about it) by myself. I had to actually think about it. And I wasn’t able to give her an answer. I still think I have a lot of playing in me.”

After averaging 30.3 minutes per night for Indiana in 2020/21, Holiday has changed teams five times since then and logged just 15.3 MPG in ’22/23. He’s not in Denver’s rotation to open this season, though head coach Michael Malone has said he values having a veteran like Holiday in reserve to call upon when necessary, as we relayed on Saturday.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves big man Naz Reid, who scored 25 points in 28 minutes in Saturday’s win over Miami, said that he never seriously considered the idea of leaving Minnesota as he neared free agency this summer, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Reid ultimately agreed to a three-year, $42MM extension just days before free agency began. “I wasn’t going anywhere. I love it here, man. It’s special,” Reid said. “It’s definitely a place I want to be and develop. I’ve developed from year one to now. Each and every year, I’ve gotten better, so there was definitely no reason for me to leave, you know?”
  • Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups likes what he has seen so far from Deandre Ayton, but admits he’s still getting the hang of how best to use his new starting center, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. “I told him I’m still learning him,” Billups said. “Still learning his game. Where he can be most effective.”
  • No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson is off to a rocky start, making 34.8% of his shots and recording more turnovers (nine) than assists (six) through two games. But the Trail Blazers have no concerns and are prepared to be patient with their rookie guard, as Fentress outlines in another Oregonian story. “You can’t rush experience,” Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon said
  • Two of the Jazz‘s major weaknesses – subpar guard play and defense – have been on display in the early going this season, according to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. One bright spot, Larsen writes, has been the play of rookie guard Keyonte George, who increasingly looks like he can play a major role on this team.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Hardy, Holiday, Gobert

Last season changed dramatically for Russell Westbrook when he landed with the Clippers, and he’s grateful to the Jazz for the role they played in making it happen, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Westbrook spent 12 days on Utah’s roster in February after a trade that ended his embattled relationship with the Lakers. The veteran guard agreed to a buyout when the opportunity with the Clippers arose, but he said he was willing to stay with the Jazz and help the team in any way he could.

“I would have come in and did whatever they asked me to do,” Westbrook said. “I told them I could be a mentor. Whatever I needed to do to help, I would have done it. Like always I do whatever is best for the team. If that’s to come and sit my ass there in street clothes and make sure I help the young guys, I’ll do that.”

Westbrook never left Los Angeles after the trade, Greif adds, but he talked to members of Utah’s coaching staff and front office, along with former teammates, as he considered the possibility of playing for the Jazz. Greif points out that Westbrook wanted to be with a contender, and Utah couldn’t offer that or a guaranteed spot in the rotation. However, team officials told Westbrook they would welcome him if he decided to finish the season there.

“I just wanted to make sure that he knew how much I respect him as a player,” head coach Will Hardy said. “And that whatever the decision ends up being, that he’s always welcome here with me. I’ve had a lot of respect for him for a long time. I’ve been on staffs in San Antonio in particular where we played Oklahoma City in the playoffs a lot, so I’ve seen Russell up close and personal. You know, his reputation speaks for itself.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Hardy abandoned his four-guard experiment after just one game, observes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. With an abundance of guards worthy of playing time, Hardy used four of them together with one big man at times on opening night, but he never had more than three guards on the court at one time on Friday as the Jazz defeated the Clippers. “The speed of the smaller lineup feels good and looks good in practice, because there’s times where you’re like, ‘Man, they’re really moving and they’re pressuring the ball!’ And then you get in a game and it’s not quite the same,” Hardy said. “You find out, ‘Man, we didn’t rebound well, and offensively it was just OK.’”
  • There was speculation that Justin Holiday might see rotation minutes with the Nuggets, but it doesn’t appear like it’s going to happen right away, tweets Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “It’s great to have guys like Justin, guys like DeAndre (Jordan), who understand that right now we’re gonna play our young guys,” coach Michael Malone said. “And they’re gonna stay ready and be pros while awaiting their opportunity.”
  • Rudy Gobert claims to be in the best shape of his career as he enters his second season with the Timberwolves, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).