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Jokić Back in Full as Nuggets Push Through First Scrimmage of Camp

SAN DIEGO – Friday’s first piece of good news came when the Nuggets’ franchise center, Nikola Jokic, suited up and participated in his first full practice of training camp. He was back with the starters as the Nuggets scrimmaged for the majority of a two-and-a-half-hour practice at San Diego State University. He’d been limited the prior three days with a finger injury.

“It was great to have Nikola (Jokic) out on the floor, playing 5-on-5, extended minutes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, him and Paul (Millsap) together are a tough duo to guard.”

What did Malone see overall?

“I thought the energy and effort were where they needed to be in Day Four,” he said. “I thought we had great examples of offensive execution, being unselfish, moving the ball (and) playing with pace. I thought defensively, for three quarters, we definitely had some really good examples of our defense – starting in transition, flowing into the half court.

“It was great to just play, get some real referees in here. Played four, eight-minute quarters and got up-and-down. The best part about this is we can watch the film as a staff and clean up a lot of the things that need to be cleaned up (Saturday) before practice.”

Starters aside, the Nuggets got standout performances from Monte Morris, Trey Lyles, Torrey Craig and Juancho Hernangomez. Rookie Thomas Welsh had some very good moments as well.

Malone honed-in on Lyles and Morris.

“Trey Lyles has had a great camp,” Malone said. “Trey Lyles, four days in a row now he’s been one of the best players in the gym. Monte Morris has been terrific as well. So, nobody got hurt, which is always a good thing. Guys came out, competed hard and tried to play the right way.”

The Nuggets are two days away from opening the preseason against the Lakers on Sunday.

Other Observations…

- Jamal Murray has been solid in a number of areas during training camp, but has struggled with his shot. Malone viewed it, however, through a different lens.

“Jamal has not shot the ball well in this camp,” Malone said. “And the best thing about that – which is a strange statement to say when a guy hasn’t shot the ball well – is that he’s rebounding at an extremely high level. And he has done a great job of valuing the ball. Going into today’s practice I think he had 14 assists and only four turnovers in all of the live sessions.

“He was…our third-leading rebounder as a point guard in camp, which is terrific. I’m not worried about Jamal’s shot. He’s rebounding, he’s valuing the ball, he’s making his teammates better. It’s great to see.”

Malone said as Murray rounds into better condition, he’ll be fine.

“I don’t think he’s in great shape right now,” Malone said. “And that’s really funny to say about Jamal because he’s one of our best-conditioned athletes still. But for him, he’s not in great shape for Jamal Murray. And I think once he gets that rhythm, that conditioning back, that’s going to allow him to make shots when he’s tired.”

- Second-year guard Monte Morris has been one of the Nuggets’ top performers early in camp.

“I think the best thing that Monte has going for him, is he has tremendous confidence,” Malone said. “He has tremendous grit and toughness, and he’s not going to just allow teams and players to do whatever they want to do. He’s made tremendous strides from last year being a two-way player, to this year. Monte has been one of our best players in camp on both ends of the floor.”

- Malik Beasley didn’t have a great shooting day on Friday, but he has been good nearly every other day in knocking down shots. Malone spoke to the work Beasley is doing so far.

“Malik was quietly, after three days, having a good camp,” Malone said. “He was shooting the ball extremely well – over 50 percent from three. Most impressive was his assist-to-turnovers. Malik was simplifying his game, making the simple play, the right play. He had 11 assists and only four turnovers going into (Friday).”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.