Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 2: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets continued to work their way into game shape with their second practice in the NBA bubble down in Orlando Saturday evening.

Although the team is not at full strength in the bubble, these are valuable practice sessions to help get back into a rhythm on the court after spending several months away from organized basketball.

Following practice, head coach Michael Malone and Jamal Murray spoke to the media to provide some additional insight into the evening’s practice session and life in the bubble.

Without further ado, here are three takeaways from Saturday’s practice session.

Bol has showcased his unique skillset in Orlando

From the moment the Nuggets traded into the 2019 NBA Draft to select Bol Bol, fans have been eager to catch glimpses of the big man’s game.

After a foot injury suffered in college, Bol has gone through somewhat of a “redshirt” season with the Nuggets, similar to the 2018-19 campaign Michael Porter Jr. experienced. However, Bol was able to play in eight games for the Windy City Bulls in the G League, where he flashed glimpses of his tantalizing skillset.

Since the G League season was officially ended during the league’s stoppage of play and NBA team rosters were expanded for the remaining seeding games and playoffs, Bol has joined the Nuggets in the bubble and has been practicing with the team.

“He (Bol) only practiced with us in Denver a few times during the season,” Malone said Saturday. “To see him out there playing and doing things that a lot of people can’t do, it’s really remarkable. I have to remind myself how young he is. He is extremely talented and skilled.”

Malone also revealed that Bol is getting stronger and healthier and that being able to compete with his teammates is great to see during the team’s practices.

Adjusting to the lack of homecourt advantage

Obviously, there will be no true homecourt advantage enjoyed by any team during the resumption of the 2019-20 season in Orlando.

For the Nuggets, that aspect of the bubble environment has been brought up often given the high altitude that teams aren’t accustomed to playing in when they face the Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

Both Malone and Murray stressed the importance of the team sticking together and relying on the continuity and chemistry they’ve established in recent seasons in order to create an advantage.

“We can’t bring the altitude or our fans with us,” Malone said. “All we can control is the energy that we bring, the love that we have for one another. That’s the only way you’ll be able to create a homecourt advantage. We need our bench to be in the games and we’ll have to rely on each other.”

Malone was quick to point out that the NBA’s annual General Manager survey at the beginning of the 2019-20 season ranked Denver as the hardest place to play, which was mainly a result of the altitude and the increase in fan support that the Nuggets have enjoyed in recent years.

Murray was even more direct about how the Nuggets can create an advantage in Orlando.

“The advantage is with your game and how well you play,” Murray said Saturday. “The energy that we bring, that’s going to be our advantage. With the guys that we have, it’s going to be fun to get everybody back on the court together.”

Malone doesn’t feel pressure to win during seeding games

With the Nuggets having clinched a playoff appearance as soon as the league announced the return to play structure, Denver is in a strong position as it relates to the seeding games.

While there is still plenty to be decided within the Western Conference playoff standings, Malone stressed the fact that there are other big picture aspects to keep in mind as Denver opens up their seeding games schedule against the Miami Heat on Aug. 1.

“The comforting thing to know is that we’re not in a position where we feel that we have to go 8-0,” Malone said. “That said, we want to find our rhythm and go into the playoffs playing our best version of basketball possible after a four-month layoff.”

Malone explained that he doesn’t want to “win the battle but lose the war” as it relates to pacing his team during the seeding games.

“We have to get guys in shape, find a rhythm and reconnect on the floor,” Malone said. “Those three scrimmages and eight seeding games will provide us with eleven opportunities to do so before the playoffs begin.”

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