Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 7: Three Takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets wrapped up their seventh practice on Friday morning and the focus was mainly on bodies. That’s right, with just five days left until the first scrimmage against the Wizards, there is uncertainty as to exactly how many players will be available. Here are the highlights from Friday’s media availability.

Thrill speaks

Will Barton III, like many of his colleagues around the NBA, has been impacted by the events that have sparked the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement around the country. The veteran small forward is arguably the most outspoken player in the Nuggets’ locker room, so as expected, he didn’t mince words on the topic.

“Don’t get just caught up in basketball and watching us play,” Barton III said in a plea to NBA fans. “Always keep the focus on the many who have lost their lives [to] police brutality or racism. We must keep talking about it.”

That said, Barton III is still wary about the ultimate outcome of symbolic gestures from fellow NBA players and protests around the country.

“None of these platforms is going to be enough. If we think just putting names on the back of jerseys and talking to the media is going to fix anything, we’re fooling ourselves,” he said.

Barton III, who was one of three players who decided to keep his last name on his jersey, believes education will be the difference-maker.

“Sports have been around for a long time. We’ve been putting T-shirts on [with messages on in the past] and trying to bring awareness. At this point, I feel like that’s not going to really do anything,” he explained. “So, I don’t even want to cheat my people like that. I’d rather just keep on trying to educate the youth and show people to how to survive.”

He added, “I got some things bubbling up with my PR team, about talking with local kids back in my city. Whether it’s at YMCAs or schools, having Zoom calls with them, and just educating them on the world… So I’m just going to give them game on how to survive and still be successful because I’m a living testament to it. I figured it out.”

Although those realities very much remain in Barton III’s mind, he did acknowledge that he appreciated having an opportunity to rejoin his teammates – even if it is in a bubble in Orlando.  

“The bubble is the bubble. It’s something I’m not used to and no one is accustomed to. This is different times right now, you’re just trying to stay mentally [strong]….It’s good to be around my teammates and good to be able to play basketball. That’s what we love to do.”

Missing personnel becoming a concern

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has alluded to it all week, but on Friday, he addressed the elephant in the room: How will he manage his team’s first scrimmage against Washington with limited personnel?

“I would say there’s definitely some concern, but not for the safety of our players. We will be smart [in that regard].”

The concern lies in potential players being missing due to various reasons. Malone and several players this week have acknowledged guys have played out of position due to who is on hand. Bol Bol as a 7-foot-2 small forward anyone?

Still, despite those challenges, Malone tried to present, with some humor, what he feels are silver linings to the current situation.

“Jerami as a two-guard is exciting, Bol Bol as a two-guard” Malone said with a laugh. “I think we’ve had instances throughout these 11 days [and seven practices] where certain guys who you’re not used to seeing playing together have gotten minutes together and are actually a lot better than you would have thought originally.”  

Scrimmage prep

With the first scrimmage against Washington Wednesday quickly, Malone was quizzed on if he will treat the three games like preseason contests. He shared his expectations on Friday.

“The objective is to get through these games and create some chemistry and continuity. Try to show signs of improvement on both ends of the floor. But the number one thing for me is can we get through these scrimmages healthy and not putting the guys in a position where they’re overworked.”

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