Michael Porter Jr.

Nuggets Notes: Layoff, Jokic, Porter, Roster Construction

The Nuggets are eager to get back to action after a long layoff, writes Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. Denver’s sweep of the Lakers wrapped up on May 22, so by the time Game 1 of the Finals tips off Thursday night, the team will have gone 10 days without playing. The break provided some welcome rest for the players, but it might have lasted too long.

“I told my wife when Boston won Game 6, it almost felt like – we’d been sitting so long, it almost felt like we weren’t in the playoffs anymore because the only thing we were doing was watching them,” Jeff Green said. “But I watched two good teams battle and when they won, it was like, ‘Now it’s time to refocus.’ The time off, I think it helped in many ways. It allowed us to regroup, touch up on some things, better ourselves. I enjoyed that series. They showed me some things on both ends. I’m looking forward to this matchup.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said the Nuggets were focusing their preparation on Miami after the Heat took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. More Celtics work was mixed in as Boston rallied to tie the series.

“We’ve been sitting for a long time, we’re going to be a little jittery and anxious to play,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Just try to keep them calm. The first couple possessions are going to be a lot, even for myself. I’ll be feeling anxious, even right now.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Coach Michael Malone says Nikola Jokic has many of the “selfless superstar” qualities that Tim Duncan exhibited with the Spurs (video link). Even though Jokic has become one of the league’s best players, Malone said he’s never lost focus on helping his teammates and doing whatever is necessary to win.
  • Michael Porter Jr. overcame three back surgeries to reach the NBA Finals, notes Mirin Fader of The Ringer. With his athleticism reduced by the repeated injuries, Porter focused on adding things to his game and has become an improved rebounder, defender and three-point shooter. “There was a lot of sad feelings and there was a lot of really, honestly, depression and anxiety, not knowing if you’re able to fulfill what you thought for your life,” Porter said about last year’s recovery process.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look at how the Nuggets’ roster was built, including the 2021 Aaron Gordon trade that meant saying goodbye to Gary Harris, a long-time cornerstone of the franchise.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Strategy, Jokic, Porter

It was an ear infection that had Jamal Murray listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Murray contracted the infection on Saturday, but he was able to score 31 points Tuesday night as the Nuggets held off a late Lakers comeback.

Coach Michael Malone had Murray sit out practice leading up to the game so he could rest and try to recover. He watched film and reviewed the scouting reports, but he didn’t do anything physical until Tuesday’s tipoff.

“I sometimes marvel at the kid,” Malone said. “He showed up and performed like he always does.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • The Nuggets focused on attacking D’Angelo Russell in Game 1, Singer adds in another Post story. Speaking after Wednesday’s film session, Bruce Brown described Russell as “not the best defender, but he tries.” The Lakers guard was a minus-25 for the game and played just nine minutes in the second half. “A guy that’s played really well for them was not on the floor in the fourth quarter, D’Angelo Russell,” Malone said. “And that to me is an interesting storyline. Are they going to play him? Are they not going to play him?”
  • The Lakers had some success by using Rui Hachimura, a smaller defender, to guard Nikola Jokic in the second half Tuesday, but the Nuggets say other teams have tried the same tactic, including the Timberwolves in the first round, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “As a team, we’ve seen everything there is to see on how teams will try to guard Nikola,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “It might have surprised us for a little bit in that late second half, but looking at the film, I don’t think that that’ll be an issue for us. Next thing we know how to counter that when they put (Anthony Davis) off ball and AD is roaming a little bit, it opens up some stuff on the backside, so we just got to execute.”
  • The Nuggets have benefited from Porter’s unselfish attitude during the playoffs, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. During the second-round series against Phoenix, Porter told Malone that he wouldn’t object if Brown was used in his place to close out games, adding, “I just want to win.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Title Hopes, Porter, Bench

After missing the playoffs the last two years because of a torn ACL in his left knee, Jamal Murray is back and looking like the dominant force he was during the Orlando bubble, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Murray delivered 34 points and nine assists on Saturday night as the Nuggets topped Phoenix in their series opener. He drilled six three-pointers, including a pair on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to help Denver pulled away.

“Those moments, when you dream of it as a kid, you try to reenact those in the backyard,” Murray said. “Just counting down (final seconds for a winning shot) or feeling the energy or hitting that big shot and you hear the crowd that loud, you live for those moments and you want to make the most of those moments. And I have been waiting for a while to be healthy to be back and playing at this level and during this time of the year.”

Murray’s ACL injury happened in April 2021 and resulted in the Nuggets being swept by the Suns that year. He sat out all of last season while recovering, and a depleted Denver team lost to the Warriors in the first round. In his last playoff appearance, Murray led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in 2020, and he hopes to take them even further this year.

“He is playing amazing,” Nikola Jokic said. “He is definitely showing what he is capable of. He is our best player, and we are following him right now.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Last night’s performance should help erase any doubts over Denver’s ability to win a title, contends Tony Jones of The Athletic. He points out that the Nuggets were so dominant during the regular season that they were able to cruise through March and still finish with as the top seed in the West. Along with the boost from Murray’s return, the team now has a strong defensive presence on the perimeter with the offseason additions of Bruce BrownChristian Braun and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “You guys (the media) act like you’re surprised, like we haven’t been playing at this level for most of the season,” Murray said after Saturday’s victory. “It kind of gets tiring having to defend ourselves. So we’re just coming out, trying to play well, and trying to win games.”
  • The Nuggets have also benefited from the return of Michael Porter Jr., who missed nearly all of last season after undergoing lumbar spine surgery. Suns star Kevin Durant calls Porter the X-factor in the series, per Michael Singer of The Denver Post. “He got healthy now, got an opportunity to play with a team that’s playing for something, playing meaningful basketball every year, got a Hall of Famer he’s playing with (Jokic) as well to make the game a little easier for you, so sky’s the limit for him,” Durant said. “Still young in the game, still athletic after surgeries.”
  • Denver’s depth might be the difference in this series, Singer suggests in another Post article. While the Suns’ best players logged heavy minutes in the first round, Nuggets coach Michael Malone showed a willingness to use a nine- or 10-man rotation.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter Jr., Title Run, Jokic

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are healthy this postseason and that makes the Nuggets much more dangerous, Pat Graham of The Associated Press writes. Murray, who missed last season due to a knee injury, finished off the Timberwolves in Game 5 with 35 points. Porter, who has been plagued by back issues in prior seasons, had a 25-point performance in Game 3.

“It was good to be back in the playoffs and just be playing at a high level along with Jamal,” Porter said. “It’s a good feeling.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Murray was irritated by the chatter surrounding Minnesota’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the way he was blanketing Denver’s star guard, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. He made a statement with his Game 5 eruption. “He was our best player this series,” said Nikola Jokic, citing Murray’s energy, shot-making and leadership.
  • Can Denver go all the way with the current group? Tony Jones of The Athletic explores that question, suggesting that the Nuggets’ biggest concern is their defense – particularly against the Suns’ superstars in the second-round series – and the need for a steady No. 3 offensive option to emerge.
  • Jokic earned a bonus with the team reaching the second round, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. He’ll collect an extra $568,966 as a result of the Nuggets winning a series.

Northwest Notes: Murray, MPJ, Thunder, Clarkson

Jamal Murray‘s breakout on a postseason stage occurred during the 2020 playoffs in the Orlando bubble, when he averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists with a .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 games as the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals.

Between then and now, Murray has had to endure a lengthy recovery process from an ACL tear, but he’s off to a great start in the 2023 postseason, putting up 32.0 PPG and 6.5 APG on .500/.500/.909 shooting in his first two games against Minnesota. Teammate Michael Porter Jr. told reporters this week that Murray “looks better than ever,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays.

For his part, the star guard is eager to prove that “Bubble Murray” isn’t just a moniker to live up to — it’s a level he believes he can surpass.

“People say, ‘Oh, that’s like vintage (Murray),'” he told Youngmisuk, referring to the “Bubble Murray” term. “It’s like, I haven’t even hit my best. … I feel like people are making that to be the best that’s been seen. And I’m thinking that was just the beginning.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Like Murray, Porter has had to overcome injury issues to get to where he’s at with the top-seeded Nuggets this spring, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic details. Porter has undergone multiple back surgeries, including one procedure that wiped out his rookie year and another that limited him to nine games in 2021/22. “Injuries have definitely made my basketball career a little different path than I would have wished for growing up,” Porter said. “But I’m here in the playoffs, and it is a dream come true. I’m playing for the No. 1 team in the West. I’m playing a lot of minutes for the No. 1 team in the West and we’re up 2-0 in (the first round of) the playoffs. It’s all you can ask for.”
  • Speaking to local reporters on Thursday in his end-of-season presser, Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti didn’t rule out the possibility of last year’s No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren playing for OKC’s Summer League squad and stressed that he wants to see the team become more physical going forward, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “A lot of people think about physicality, and they think about one side of the ball, they think about defense,” Presti said. “Offensively I think there’s room for us to get more physical. You can see that at the free throw line. We were last in the league of getting into the bonus before our opponent. That’s not a place you want to be.”
  • If Jordan Clarkson declines his player option for 2023/24, the opportunity to play for a winning team will be a top priority as he weighs his options in free agency, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. However, that doesn’t mean Clarkson would rule out the retooling Jazz, who exceeded expectations this past season and are well positioned to keep improving. “Everybody this year really took steps super fast and grew super fast,” Clarkson said. “I think next year we’ll be back to our winning ways, with a chance to compete for something.”

Northwest Notes: Thunder, KAT, Malone, Nuggets, Nnaji

As the NBA’s youngest team, the Thunder have didn’t have high external expectations entering 2022/23. However, their rebuild has taken significant steps forward thanks to a strong foundation of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, and Seerah Sohi of The Ringer believes that Oklahoma City might have the most interesting team in the league.

Despite prioritizing player development over immediate success, the Thunder — who still possess several additional draft picks in the future — find themselves in the play-in mix with just two games remaining on their schedule. Sohi points out that Chet Holmgren, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, is scheduled to return next season and could fill a void in the middle. She also notes that the team’s situation seems similar to Memphis a few years ago — a rising upstart that might shoot up the standings in ’23/24.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • After attempting just three shots in the Timberwolves‘ worst loss of the season on Sunday against the tanking Trail Blazers, Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to head coach Chris Finch to ensure they would be on the same page going forward, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “We had a conversation,” Towns told reporters after scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in an essential victory over the Nets. “We have a great relationship, so that conversation obviously paid dividends tonight. We had a good conversation about philosophies. We got it done today.”
  • Head coach Michael Malone ripped the Nuggets‘ effort against the Rockets after getting blown out on Tuesday night, calling the team “soft,” according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “We had a chance to clinch number one (seed) tonight and we talked about it this morning, the opportunity at hand,” Malone said. “And we definitely did not take that opportunity seriously because the way we played tonight was unacceptable playing like that, this late in the year. If that’s how we’re going to play, we’ll be out in the first round. Easy. Easy.” The Nuggets wound up clinching the top seed in the West for the first time in franchise history last night after Memphis lost to New Orleans.
  • Nuggets big man Zeke Nnaji missed his second straight game on Tuesday due to a knee injury, but it’s not considered serious, reports Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (Twitter link). The third-year forward/center is expected to return to the team’s second unit for the postseason.
  • Nnaji (right knee sprain) and the Nuggets‘ entire starting lineup — Jamal Murray (right thumb sprain), Nikola Jokic (right calf tightness), Michael Porter Jr. (left heel injury management), Aaron Gordon (right shoulder inflammation) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (non-COVID illness) — are listed as questionable for Thursday’s matchup with the Suns, per Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (Twitter links).

Northwest Notes: Hyland, Blazers, Nurkic, Wolves, Thunder

Second-year Nuggets guard Bones Hyland is considered a strong candidate to be moved ahead of this afternoon’s trade deadline, but if it were up to teammate Michael Porter Jr., Hyland wouldn’t be going anywhere, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). In addition to wanting Hyland to remain in Denver, Porter would also like to see him back in the club’s rotation.

“Bones is one of my favorite players, and I think he’s such a great player and person,” Porter said. “Circumstances make it so that sometimes he’s misunderstood, but me and him have a good connection. He’s such a talented player, obviously he should be on the floor. Everyone knows that. I don’t know what the future’s gonna hold for him, but I wish he was here. I wish he would stay here, and I wish it could be figured out. Obviously, that’s not up to me. That’s up to the front office.”

Hyland, who reportedly hasn’t been thrilled with his modest role in Denver, has been a DNP-CD for the team’s past four games. The Nuggets are believed to be seeking a first-round pick or a defensive-minded wing in any deal involving the 22-year-old.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although the Trail Blazersdeal sending Josh Hart to New York doesn’t exactly scream “win now,” star guard Damian Lillard didn’t mind the move, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I think it’s a game of chess … you gotta do what you gotta do, and trust the process that repositioning ourselves will be beneficial,” Lillard said. “… I’ve always liked Cam Reddish a lot.”
  • Jusuf Nurkic recognizes that the Trail Blazers‘ plans could change at the last minute before the deadline, but he said on Wednesday that general manager Joe Cronin has told him he won’t be on the move this week. “We had a really good, nice chat,” Nurkic said, per Quick. “I don’t know if I should really put it out there, but he said, ‘No, we are not trading you.'”
  • Given how aggressively the Timberwolves recruited and pursued D’Angelo Russell in 2019 and 2020, Wednesday’s trade agreement sending Russell out in a deal for Mike Conley represents a major philosophical shift in the team’s direction at point guard, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. While Russell was a scorer who could pass, Conley is more of a “classic” point guard, and the Wolves could use a veteran with his ability to organize and lead a team, Krawczynski explains.
  • It’s unlikely to be too eventful a trade deadline for the Thunder, who aren’t yet ready to be buyers and don’t have many veterans worth selling, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (subscription required).

Northwest Notes: KAT, Kessler, MPJ, Hart

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been away from the bench during the team’s recent games. According to head coach Chris Finch, that’s because the 6’11” big man is striving to follow “recovery protocols and keeping his leg in the right position,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns has not played for Minnesota since suffering a right calf strain. Though he was originally projected to miss four-to-six weeks with the injury, he has been unavailable for two months. Krawczynski added that, for now, there’s still no timeline for Towns to rejoin the 27-25 club.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz head coach Will Hardy indicated that rookie center Walker Kessler is likely to stay the team’s long-term starter, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter). Kessler had been filling in for previous incumbent five Kelly Olynyk over the past few weeks, but upon Olynyk’s return, Hardy opted to shift the vet to the starting power forward spot, meaning Jarred Vanderbilt has been moved to the bench for now. Kessler is averaging 7.7 PPG on 71.5% shooting from the floor, along with 7.3 RPG and 2.0 BPG.
  • Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. is excited to be back with the club after missing three games due to personal reasons, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “For all players, being on the court, being with your team is a sanctuary,” head coach Michael Malone said. “That’s the one opportunity you can get away from everything going on in your life and be in your happy place. It was great for our guys to have their brother back. It was also really important for Michael to be back with his team.” Malone also told Porter it’s a blessing that he’s got the foundation he has around him.
  • Trail Blazers small forward Josh Hart is reportedly attracting the interesting of several clubs as the February trade deadline nears and is thought to be “very available,” reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports on a new edition of his podcast Please Don’t Aggregate This (hat tip to HoopsHype for the transcription). The 6’5″ swingman is averaging 9.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.0 APG and 1.1 SPG in a starting role with the 23-26 Blazers.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Porter, Murray, Schedule

Nikola Jokic returned to action on Tuesday after missing two games due to left hamstring tightness and looked like his usual self, posting a 25-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple double in a one-point win in New Orleans. However, the Nuggets star was sidelined again on Wednesday in Milwaukee, ruled out due to hamstring tightness.

According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), Jokic’s absence on Wednesday appeared to be simply precautionary on the second night of a back-to-back set. The two-time MVP took part in pregame warmups prior to tip-off on Wednesday, and there was no indication that he aggravated his hamstring injury in his return on Tuesday.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. missed a third consecutive game on Wednesday for personal reasons. He has been out since word broke on Sunday that his younger brother, University of Denver sophomore guard Coban Porter, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide and reckless driving, as Shelly Bradbury of The Denver Post details. Coban Porter crashed into another car around 2:00 am on Sunday morning and the driver of the other vehicle died at the scene. Police alleged the 21-year-old ran a red light before the collision and smelled like alcohol and was slurring his words following the incident.
  • Jamal Murray has averaged 21.6 PPG on .477/.449/.905 shooting over his last 16 games, but there are still moments when he doesn’t feel all the way back from the ACL tear that cost him all of last season, he admits to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Examining Murray’s journey back from that injury and the Nuggets’ chances of winning a championship, Amick suggests that the 25-year-old guard may represent the key to Denver’s title hopes.
  • What should have been a showdown between two recent MVPs on Wednesday turned into a bit of a dud when the Nuggets sat Jokic, Murray, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back. Head coach Michael Malone expressed some disappointment that the NBA didn’t “set this game up to be a little bit more of a marquee matchup,” but added that he sympathizes with the schedule-makers, according to Singer of The Denver Post. “The league has an impossible job,” Malone said.

Northwest Notes: Gobert Trade, Malone, Porter Jr., Anderson

The Timberwolves’ acquisition of Rudy Gobert could eventually go down as the most lopsided trade in NBA history with the Jazz as the beneficiary, Andy Larsen of Salt Lake Tribune opines.

Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler has played as well or better than Gobert has this season, in Larsen’s view. Utah also received Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley, who could potentially be flipped for first-round picks, plus the Timberwolves’ first-rounder this year as well as first-rounders in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and a pick swap in 2026.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Malone did not coach the Nuggets’ game against Portland on Tuesday because he entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Assistant David Adelman filled in for Malone.
  • Michael Porter Jr. is feeling healthier and it’s reflected in his increasing dunk total, Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com notes. Porter had 13 dunks this season entering Tuesday’s contest with four coming in the last three games. Porter was sidelined for 13 games last month with a heel injury. “I think my foot’s getting better and I just think my nerve is healing from my back surgery and stuff like that,” Porter said. “I feel like I’m getting my legs back under me a little bit. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near where I will be toward the end of the season, but I feel like I’m in a good place overall.”
  • The Timberwolves used their mid-level exception last summer to sign forward Kyle Anderson to a two-year deal. He’s proving to be a very valuable addition, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Anderson, who is averaging a career-best 3.9 assists, had a triple-double in Monday’s loss to the Jazz. “He’s just such a solid basketball player that when he’s out there, he’s always keeping things steady,” guard Austin Rivers said.