The wait continues for Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic to join his team at the Disney campus for the NBA’s season restart.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said during a Zoom call with reporters Friday that the All-Star still hasn’t joined the team since its arrival Tuesday at Walt Disney World.
“As far as Nikola, the hope is he’ll be here soon,” Malone said. “I’ve spoken to him many times. I know he’s excited and looking forward to getting down here. He’s healthy, he feels great, and hopefully, he’ll be here soon in the next couple of days.”
Malone declined to discuss specifics, but he mentioned Jokic wasn’t the only member missing from Denver’s traveling party. It’s worth noting the Nuggets closed their practice facility at the end of June after two members of the team’s traveling party tested positive for the coronavirus. A third tested positive the following week.
Malone pointed out the situation “set us back a little bit” in preparation to travel to Orlando.
The Nuggets completed their first practice since Mar. 11 on Friday.
“Let’s be honest. We don’t have our whole team here right now, and we’re not gonna get in[to] any details on that,” Malone said. “But we’re waiting on some of our players to get down here. With the players that we have, we’re treating it as an opportunity to get back in the gym to reconnect on the court, to get some conditioning in, to get some competitive drills in and kind of revisiting offensive and defensive fundamentals, and foundational parts of our team.
“But this is not like going to day one of practice down in Colorado Springs last year. It’s a little bit different. This whole thing is different in that regard. That’s how we’re approaching it. But so far, I think the guys that are here, the commitment, the buy-in, the energy, the excitement, has been terrific. And we hope that will continue moving forward.”
Jokic tested positive for the coronavirus in late June while in Serbia, according to reports from ESPN and The Denver Post. The Nuggets’ All-Star center later produced two negative retests while in Serbia, and league protocol required him to produce an additional two negative tests in the United States before he could join the team in Orlando.
Nuggets power forward Paul Millsap said he had been in contact with Jokic on team Zoom calls over the past three weeks.
“So, we’ve heard from him,” Millsap said. “[It] seems like he’s doing well. But as of now, I don’t know his status or [have] any insight for you.”
Members of Denver’s 35-person traveling party composed of players, coaches and staff, who hadn’t tested negative for COVID-19 in the two days prior to the team’s flight on Tuesday, are expected to join the squad in Orlando once they meet the NBA’s requirements for two negative coronavirus tests.
“It’s definitely a challenge because you’re limited on how many bodies you have, who you have, how many bigs, how many smalls that you have,” Malone said. “It’s something that we’re not using as an excuse. The guys that are here are here. We’re going to find a way as a coaching staff every day to put them in the best position to make sure we’re getting meaningful, productive work in. And we’ve done that the last couple of days. I think the conditioning is in a pretty good place. Are we in game shape today? I would say probably not. I can’t imagine most of the teams down here are. We have ample opportunity and time to get ready for that.”
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