Nuggets’ Head Coach Michael Malone discusses task of staying connected with players, preparing for the NBA Draft during COVID-19 suspension

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Denver Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone joined a Zoom call with members of the media Tuesday afternoon and took time to answer questions related to how the team has stayed connected, the mountain biking he has done to pass the time and more.

Malone opened the call by thanking the health care workers that have made countless sacrifices during these difficult times.

“I want to send a big thank you to our heroes,” Malone said. “Those heroes are obviously our health care workers that are out there every single day putting themselves in the line of fire. I want to give a huge shoutout to them because they truly are heroes. They’re stepping up in a difficult time every single day. I want them to know that me and my family are thinking about them, as well as everyone in the Nuggets organization.”

Malone also congratulated former Nuggets GM Artūras Karnišovas for his new position as EVP of Basketball Operations for the Chicago Bulls.

“(It was) a well-deserved honor for Artūras to get the job in Chicago,” Malone said. “I’m happy for Artūras, I’ve worked closely with him and have known him for a long time. I know he’ll do a great job and will be sorely missed here in Denver.”

Malone was then asked a wide range of questions from media members, which allowed him to reveal some of the programs and communication methods that Denver has used to keep everyone connected during these difficult times.

Here are three takeaways from Malone’s media conference call.

The Nuggets have continued to stay connected during the suspension

Malone made sure to emphasize that the team has stayed in touch regularly throughout the past month or so. As Zoom calls have become prevalent across the U.S. workforce, the same can be said for the Nuggets, as the team even had a team-wide call Tuesday morning that included all 16 players, the coaching staff and members of the front office.

Additionally, Malone revealed that the team has an app that allows the strength and conditioning staff to send players workouts. The app also tracks which players have viewed and completed the workouts, which has been helpful for players who don’t have access to personal gyms or training equipment.

“You have to get creative,” Malone said. “Felipe Eichenberger and his staff have done a great job of engaging our players on a daily basis. Some guys have gotten Peloton bikes to have some sort of conditioning in case you can’t get outside. Then some players are going out and running, hiking, etc.”

Yet at the same time, the uncertainty surrounding the timeline of the suspension can make it difficult on players and their training habits.

“We are having a Zoom meeting with the training staff tomorrow to talk about the ramp-up,” Malone revealed. “Whenever we are allowed to get back in (to the training facilities), I’ve heard it could be roughly 25-30 days to ramp up.”

Mental health has also been a focus for Malone and the Nuggets

However, it isn’t just about ensuring that the players have stayed in peak physical shape during the suspension. Given the need for social distancing and social isolation, players can often find themselves in situations with little-to-no personal contact for days or weeks on end.

As a result, Malone and the Nuggets organization placed an emphasis on ensuring that the players’ mental health is also strong.

“During these unprecedented times, it’s also about how everyone is doing mentally,” Malone said. “I stay in touch with our players because communication allows us to feel better about ourselves. Mentally, it’s about if you’re staying engaged and in a positive mindset.”

Malone also revealed that the team has used several Zoom calls to bring in doctors to discuss mental wellbeing.

“It’s not just about basketball, it’s also about your own personal wellbeing,” Malone expressed.

There has been a mix of in-season and draft preparation

Given the uncertainty surrounding the remaining 2019-20 season and how the COVID-19 virus will impact the 2020-21 season, the Nuggets’ coaching staff and front office has had to strike a balance between preparing for the potential resumption of the 2019-20 season and ensuring that the team is ready to make a calculated pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Unlike in 2019, the Nuggets are slated to have a first-round pick in this year’s draft as a result of the four-team trade that was completed at the 2019 trade deadline. Denver will receive Houston’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, which was slated as 21st overall selection when the season was suspended.

As a result, Malone said he has had calls with the front office to look over available film on potential prospects in the 2020 draft to ensure Denver is prepared for whenever the draft takes place.

To listen to Malone’s entire conference call with media, click below.

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