Michael Malone

Northwest Notes: Edwards, Malone, Simpson, Zanik

Anthony Edwards was so dominant in the first two rounds of the playoffs that it’s easy to forget he’s only 22. However, his age and postseason inexperience might be catching up to him in the Western Conference Finals, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. The Timberwolves guard is shooting just 11-of-33 from the field so far against the Mavericks, who have thrown him off his game by mixing up coverages and using multiple defenders.

“It’s not harder to get (to the basket). They just pack the paint once you get there,” Edwards said. “So, I mean, you’ve got to make the right play because there’s three, four people in the paint. You’ve got to watch the game, so it’s all about just making the right play, and my teammates are open.”

History shows that players in their early 20s don’t enjoy a lot of postseason success. Hine points out that Edwards is going up against Kyrie Irving, who’s a decade older and has a championship ring, and Luka Doncic, who’s in his sixth NBA season and reached the conference finals two years ago. It’s difficult for Edwards to compensate for that difference in experience, but he has to figure out something quickly before the series slips away.

“With Anthony, he’s gotta pick up his decision making,” coach Chris Finch said. “I think Kyrie is actually a good example — he’s playing quick off the catch, he’s trying to beat our defensive pressure with everything on the catch, going quickly.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone admits he probably overused his starters, which led to their exhaustion at the end of Game 7 against Minnesota, per Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Durando notes that Denver’s starting five was on the court together for 958 minutes during the regular season, which was more than any other group over the past six years. “On one hand, we got the two seed,” Malone said. “And on the other hand, I’m watching our players play in Game 7 in the second half, and our guys looked dead tired. I think you guys probably saw the same thing. So did I run our players into the ground? I’m sure that’s definitely part of it.”
  • Colorado’s KJ Simpson had a pre-draft workout with the Nuggets this week, tweets Tyler King of The Denver Gazette. The junior point guard ranks 51st on ESPN’s big board. Denver holds the 28th and 56th picks in this year’s draft.
  • Jazz general manager Justin Zanik returned to work this week after recovering from a kidney transplant, per Alex Vejar of The Salt Lake Tribune. A spokesperson for the team said Zanik had been targeting a return shortly after the draft combine.

Nuggets Notes: Offseason, KCP, Braun, Cancar, MPJ

Addressing reporters at his end-of-season press conference on Thursday, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth didn’t say anything that would suggest major roster changes are in the cards for the franchise this offseason, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. While Booth suggested some tweaks will be necessary, he stressed that continuing to develop the team’s young players will be crucial to improving the roster as a whole.

“I think (the 2023 draft picks) need more seasoning,” Booth said. “They need to get in the gym. They need to play Summer League. They need to get stronger. Obviously, maybe in our top seven, we can use a little bit more talent. Maybe there’s a way to upgrade one or two positions. … Get a guy that’s a more accomplished NBA player for whatever (roster) slot they’re taking. But I don’t see anything that’s, like, crazy out of sorts for our roster.”

After losing key rotation pieces like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green last offseason, the Nuggets relied primarily on recent draftees to replace them, adding three rookies (Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, and Hunter Tyson) to the roster and assigning 2022 first-rounders Christian Braun and Peyton Watson larger roles.

Of those players, Braun was the only one head coach Michael Malone trusted in the postseason, resulting in some questions about whether Booth and Malone are in the same page when it comes to filling out the roster and distributing minutes. That’s a subject that has been discussed within the organization, as Durando relays.

“We’ve talked about this a lot upstairs,” Booth said. “The general manager, front office job oftentimes is to make sure the long-term view is something that we’re satisfied with. And Coach Malone’s down there in the trenches trying to win every night. And a lot of times, those things are aligned, but sometimes they ebb and flow away from each other.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets, via Durando:

  • Asked about the possibility of surpassing the punitive second tax apron in order to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, both team president Josh Kroenke and Booth expressed a level of comfort with operating above the aprons if it means maximizing the potential of a championship-caliber roster. “We spend a lot of time looking at the second apron and all this other stuff,” Booth said. “I think for me personally, it’s win a championship, one. Two, we have to look at the overall financial picture. And three, second apron. And I know the second apron is daunting, and there’s all kinds of restrictions, but I don’t think that’s first on our priority list. KCP’s been a great addition the last couple years. We obviously would love to have him back. We’re gonna take a hard look at what that looks like.”
  • If the Nuggets do lose Caldwell-Pope, it would likely thrust Braun into a starting job. Booth and Malone said they’re confident the young wing could succeed in that role if he continues to improve as a shooter. “I think Christian Braun, it’s all gonna come down to one thing. To be a shooting guard in the NBA, you’ve gotta be able to make shots,” Malone said. “That’s the bottom line. So if you want to simplify CB’s future as a starting two guard in the NBA, it’ll be determined upon his ability to be a 38% or above 3-point shooter.” Braun made 38.4% of his three-pointers in 2023/24, but didn’t shoot them at a high volume, converting just 63 in 82 games.
  • Booth said he expects Vlatko Cancar, who missed the entire season due to a torn ACL, to be able to suit up for Slovenia in the Olympic qualifiers, noting that the tournament will be a “great chance” to evaluate the big man. The qualifying tournament won’t begin until July 2, however, and the Nuggets will have to decide by June 29 whether or not to exercise Cancar’s $2.35MM team option.
  • The Nuggets signaled multiple times during Thursday’s presser that they likely won’t explore trading Michael Porter Jr. this summer, writes Durando. Kroenke expressed faith in the team’s current starting lineup (which includes Porter) and Malone refuted the idea (expressed by Porter himself) that MPJ was to blame for the second-round loss to Minnesota.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Malone, Jackson, Long Odds

It was a miserable night on Monday for Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who scored just eight points on 3-of-18 shooting, didn’t make a three-pointer, and committed four turnovers as Denver lost a second consecutive game at home to the Timberwolves to fall behind 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. At one point in the second quarter, a frustrated Murray was captured on camera throwing a heat pack onto the floor from the bench during a live play (Twitter video link).

The incident, which Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch referred to after the game as “dangerous” and “inexcusable,” wasn’t caught in the moment by game officials, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. In a pool report interview after the game, referee crew chief Marc Davis said Murray would have been assessed with a technical foul – but not ejected – if the officials had realized he was the one who threw the heat pack.

“We weren’t aware it had come from the bench,” Davis said. “If we would have been aware it came from the bench, we could have reviewed it under the hostile act trigger. The penalty would have been a technical foul. … For an ejection, you would have to determine it was thrown directly at somebody versus thrown in frustration.”

“We tried to impress upon [the referees] there probably aren’t many fans in the building that have a heat pack, so it probably had to come from the bench, which they found logical,” Finch said. “I’m sure it was a mistake and an oversight and nothing intentional by the officiating at all, but certainly can’t allow that to happen.”

Murray – who left the arena without speaking to reporters for a second consecutive game, according to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (Twitter link) – figures to be disciplined by the NBA for the heat pack toss. A fine is more likely than a suspension unless the league determines that Murray was aiming for Davis. We’ll have to wait to see if the penalty reflects the fact that the Nuggets guard evaded any repercussions during the game.

Here’s more on the reeling defending champs:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was also lucky to avoid a technical foul in the first quarter of Monday’s loss — he came onto the court to angrily confront Davis (Twitter video link) after Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t called for an offensive foul following a collision with Murray (video link). Davis explained after the game that Malone didn’t “say anything unsportsmanlike” that warranted a technical. “When [Murray] is out there battling a guy like [Towns] and trying to take charge in what I thought was an easy call and he is not rewarded, I owe it to Jamal Murray or anybody else in that situation to voice my opinion, to voice my concern or disagreement,” Malone told reporters, per McMenamin. “That wound up being a big play because things after that did not go our way. Which is unfortunate, but that is my job. I am going to fight for my guys. I think I have to fight even more for them.”
  • Backup point guard Reggie Jackson, who has battled ankle issues this year, limped to the locker room with medical staff in the fourth quarter and didn’t return, tweets Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Jackson will have three days off before Friday’s Game 3 to rest and recover, but his status for that game isn’t yet known.
  • The Nuggets will face long odds as they look to pull off a comeback against the Wolves, according to Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette, who notes that teams facing a 2-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series have a record of 33-421 (27-319 in best-of-seven series). No team has ever come back from a 3-0 hole.
  • The way in which the Nuggets have lost the first two games of the Western semifinals has been especially “disturbing,” says Troy Renck of The Denver Post, writing that the team hasn’t matched Minnesota’s “intensity or physicality.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Watson, Malone

The Nuggets opened their NBA title defense on Saturday night by beating the Lakers for the ninth straight time, and Jamal Murray warns that they weren’t at their best in the 11-point victory, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Throughout the first half, Denver couldn’t convert on open three-point opportunities as L.A. constantly threw double teams at Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets were just 6-of-23 from long distance in the first 24 minutes, and Murray believes the increased playoff excitement played a role.

“I think it’s just a greater energy (at the beginning), you know what I’m saying? You put a little bit more on your jump shots. I did for sure,” Murray said. “I remember last year, Game 1 against Minnesota, it was the same kind of thing. You’re just anticipating so much energy, so much adrenaline running through your body, sometimes you’ve just gotta relax and just take a shot like it’s practice. I wasn’t shooting like it was practice in the first half.”

The bright side for the Nuggets is that they only trailed by three points at halftime despite all those misses. Murray believes calmness and execution are the keys to the series, and he said he had no sense of panic when his team fell behind by 12 points.

“I just think we know what we want. We’re not trying to anything different. We’re not trying to, like, make stuff up,” Murray said. “Everybody knows where they should be, and they know (if they are) where they should be, they’ll get open shots. So that’s the beauty of this team. It’s just pure basketball. There’s no fighting like how it is in the park … where you don’t know where the shot’s gonna come from.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. is grateful for the support of his Nuggets teammates amid an excruciating week for his family, Durando states in a separate story. After his brother, Jontay Porter, was banned for life from the NBA for gambling-related violations, Michael was in a courtroom Friday as another brother, Coban, was sentenced to six years in prison for killing a woman last year in a drunk driving crash. “Each one of them texted me separately and just told me they’ve got my back. If I need anything, they’ve got me,” Porter said. “Yeah, a lot of people were reaching out. Friends, family. So to have these guys understand why I missed practice yesterday and just have my back has been big for me.”
  • Peyton Watson saw very limited action during last year’s title run, so this series marks his first real taste of the NBA playoffs, notes Ryan McFadden of The Denver Post. The second-year swingman, who entered the rotation after the loss of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in free agency, has become a valuable defender and an elite shot blocker off the bench. “I don’t think anybody questioned my ability or my capabilities to go out there and perform and help our team win. I think everybody’s question was, ‘Is he gonna be able to handle it mentally?’” Watson said. “I think that’s the part I’m most far along with now.”
  • Before Saturday’s game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone talked to reporters about entering the playoffs for the first time without his father, longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone, who died in October, Durando adds in another piece.

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.”

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: Scoot, Malone, Jazz, LaVine

Rookie point guard Scoot Henderson seems to be reinvigorating the Trail Blazers upon returning to action, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

Fentress notes that an eye examination indicated that Henderson was in need of contact lenses. He is now wearing goggles to keep the lenses in place. On Wednesday, he suited up for his first game since incurring an ankle injury on November 1. Portland beat the Jazz 121-105.

“It was just as I’m getting older, even though I’m 19, eyesight changes sometimes,” Henderson said. “The doctor just recommended the contacts and just for protection, the goggles. And they are stylish.”

Power forward Jerami Grant appreciated what Henderson brought to the table. Although he scored just three points on 1-of-7 field goal shooting, Henderson also chipped in seven assists and three rebounds and was a plus-15 in 17 minutes of action.

“He brought us a spark,” Grant said. “He pushed the pace for us. We played faster than we’ve been playing over the last whatever games that he hasn’t played.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers have assigned rookie wing Rayan Rupert to their NBAGL club, the Rip City Remix, Portland has announced (via Twitter).
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone recently weighed in on his lucrative new multiyear extension, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “It’s a place where I truly enjoy going to work every day because of the people I work with,” said Malone, the son of NBA lifer Brendan Malone. “I grew up in this business, and you know how difficult the job can be for a coach, for their assistant coaches, for the families. When I moved to Denver, I think my daughters were in third and fifth grade. And the fact that I’m going to see both my daughters graduate high school (in Denver) — that never happens in this business… So I always remind myself how lucky and fortunate I am, because to coach in the NBA is truly a blessing for me and my family.”
  • With Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine possibly on the trade block, Tony Jones of The Athletic considers whether he’d be a good fit on the Jazz. LaVine’s skill set as a three-level scorer and terrific offensive contributor capable of improvising creatively late in games make him an intriguing piece for a team in need of some scoring punch. However, his pricey contract, which will pay him $43MM next season, should give Utah some pause, Jones opines.

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.

Michael Malone Signs Extension With Nuggets

NOVEMBER 21: The multiyear extension is official, the team announced in a press release.

“We are thrilled to announce this extension with Coach Malone and to keep him leading the Nuggets for years to come,” said Kroenke Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Josh Kroenke. “To see our team continue to improve year after year, culminating with our ultimate goal of an NBA championship is exactly what we all envisioned on the day we hired Michael in 2015. This extension is extremely well deserved and there’s no question about the commitment and dedication that Michael has shown to our organization.”

NOVEMBER 13: After winning the NBA title, Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been rewarded with an extension that will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Malone’s extension will cover two more years in addition to the two remaining on his current deal, a source tells Mike Singer (Twitter link). That would put him under contract through the 2026/27 season.

Malone came to Denver in 2015, taking over a team that was near the bottom of the league. After missing the playoffs in his first three seasons, he has guided the Nuggets to the postseason in each of the past five years, culminating last spring with the first championship in franchise history.

With 375 wins in Denver, Malone is already third on the Nuggets’ career list behind Doug Moe and George Karl, and he’s likely to move into the top spot by next season. Wojnarowski points out that Denver has the NBA’s second-best winning percentage since 2018/19, behind only Milwaukee.

Malone is the fourth longest-tenured coach in the league, Woj adds. Only Gregg Popovich, Erick Spoelstra and Steve Kerr have spent more time with their current teams.

[RELATED: Longest-Tenured NBA Head Coaches]

Malone, 52, is the son of former NBA coach Brendan Malone, who passed away last month. He also served as head coach of the Kings for a little more than a season prior to his time with the Nuggets and spent time as an assistant with the Knicks, Cavaliers, Hornets and Warriors.

Jamal Murray Sidelined By Hamstring Strain

The Nuggets will go without their backcourt star for an indefinite period.

Coach Michael Malone revealed on Monday that Jamal Murray will be sidelined for multiple games due to a right hamstring strain, according to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post.

“We’ll kind of continue to talk to our doctors, but his injury is not a one- or two-game injury,” Malone said prior to Denver’s game against New Orleans. “That’s what I do know. This will be something that will be longer than we would like.

“… You have to have the big picture in mind and make sure we’re putting him in position to get healthy before he comes back. Because this is an injury that, if you keep having recurring hamstring injuries or soft tissue injuries, they can linger and become even worse. And that’s the one thing we do not want to happen.”

Murray suffered the strain during the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Chicago.

Without him, the Nuggets will rely on veteran Reggie Jackson, who had been serving as the team’s sixth man. Two-way player Collin Gillespie and rookie second-round draft pick Jalen Pickett could see more action at the point, while shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may have more ball-handling responsibilities.

Rookie guard Julian Strawther will also see his minutes uptick. He had 21 points in 19 minutes in Denver’s victory over the Pelicans.

Of course, Denver also has the top passing big man in the game in Nikola Jokic.