Denver Nuggets Bubble Practice: Day 13 Takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

Denver basketball is just over a day away as the team’s season restart tips off against Miami in Saturday’s matinee matchup.

Here are the takeaways from Thursday’s practice:

Health and postseason are the priorities

The Nuggets will face their first seeding game against the Heat this weekend. In a normal situation, the team would be pulling all of its resources and pushing forward to try to secure the best seed possible and homecourt throughout the playoffs. In the bubble, there are several reasons why the team might be more conservative.

For one, the team’s unique homecourt advantage, playing at 5280 feet, doesn’t factor in. Neither does the Nuggets’ faithful of 19,520 per game. Finally, there is the element of keeping bodies fresh for the playoffs. Starting on Aug. 1, Denver will play their remaining eight remaining regular season games in 14 days. That’s a game every other day with a back-to-back sandwiched in between. Those challenges are at the forefront of Nuggets head coach Michael Malone’s mind.

“No. 1 [priority] is health,” Malone explained. “Whatever teams wins the NBA championship this year has to be very fortunate and healthy with their roster, considering the four-month layoff and [then] ramping up to a very high level.”

All together now

Speaking of personnel, there was a collective optimism around the group about the fact the Nuggets finally have their full rotation intact for the first time since camp started almost a month ago.


“I think we’re different from most teams out here in that we’ve have had new bodies come down here slowly but surely,” Malone explained. “The fact that we get some new blood, some new life and some new energy have helped us out.”  


“It was good to finally have everyone here,” Keita Bates-Diop added. “It’s taken us a few weeks for everyone to get here, including me. For us to finally be here ahead of the games is going to be crucial for us.”  

Now that the group is together, Malone made it clear where his team’s focus will lie in trying to deliver on heightened expectations this season. 

“You’re not going to win a championship unless you defend at a high-level,” Malone said.

Keita staying ready

Bates-Diop was one of the intriguing parts of the deal that sent Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to Minnesota in a three-team trade that also included Houston.

Bates-Diop’s career stats in the NBA don’t immediately jump off the page, but his versatility and potential stand out. In a G League stint with the Iowa Wolves, he averaged 18 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and a sizzling 57.1 percent from downtown. With the Nuggets likely to rotate during their seeding games, it could open up an opportunity for the second-year player to see some minutes.

“I’m trying to stay ready no matter what’s going on,” Bates-Diop said. “They might throw different lineups out there during the course of these games so I’m just trying to stay ready.”


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