Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 4: Three takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

After a day off, on which the Nuggets hosted a pool workout for players, the team returned to the practice courts Tuesday evening.

While all the attention was on Nikola Jokić’s arrival to the bubble and his presence at the team’s practice today, the Nuggets continued to work with the players they who’ve been with the team since it arrived in Florida as they continue to prepare for the resumption of the season.

With just over a week remaining until Denver’s first scrimmage game against the Washington Wizards on July 22, the team continues to focus on conditioning and on-court chemistry.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice.

Jokić’s presence at practice was a welcomed addition

After an initial delay, Jokić joined his team as a courtside viewer at practice today, following his quarantine period in his hotel room.

As it relates to the Serbian big man getting on the court, the team will continue to take the appropriate measures.

“For all of our guys, we haven’t played live basketball in over four months,” head coach Michael Malone said following practice Tuesday. “We’re going to be very, very smart about how we approach this. We have to push our guys to get into basketball shape, but we also have to be smart enough to pull back and give them the rest that they need.”

Jokić also spoke to the media Tuesday and provided insight into his quarantine period prior to arriving in Orlando.

“For those 14 days (in quarantine), I couldn’t play at all,” Jokić said when asked about how much basketball he’s played over the past three weeks. “After that, I played a couple times before I got here.”

While the two-time All-Star has work to do in order to reintegrate with the team on the court, Malone stressed the importance of Jokić being around the team off the court as that chemistry continues to grow.

“It was great to see him,” Malone said. “I can kind of sense the relief of him being here finally and going through the protocols to get here. I think I can speak for everyone on our staff and on our roster in saying that having him around is very uplifting.”

As the team continues to wait for a full complement of players, the Nuggets can rest assured knowing Jokić has safely arrived to the bubble and can begin to work himself back into the flow of the team.

Malone has been impressed with the effort and energy in practice

Denver has now held four official practices over the past five days following a four-month layoff from organized basketball.

While it’s nearly impossible for players to be in true game shape, Malone has been very impressed with his squad so far.

“I would say overall I’ve been impressed with our whole group,” Malone said Tuesday. “It’s tough to single anyone out. Our guys are locked in and focused on the task at hand. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort, commitment and the energy that all of our guys have brought forth.”

As more players continue to join the team in the bubble, this strong, focused mindset should only further help the Nuggets get back into a groove heading into their seeding games.

Lack of initial practice time won’t be an excuse for Malone, Nuggets

As a result of several positive COVID-19 tests, the Nuggets didn’t ever get to experience “phase three” of the league’s restart plan. That phase was supposed to include organized workouts at Pepsi Center, but Denver wasn’t able to benefit from that time in the gym as a team and eventually found itself in Orlando with an incomplete squad.

However, that won’t be an excuse used by Malone or anyone on the roster.

“This pandemic doesn’t care who you are, where you are, or whether you’re a pro player or not,” Malone said Tuesday. “We have to handle that and I think our guys have been tremendous in handling everything that’s been coming our way in terms of distractions.”

Malone has preached this no-excuse mentality for several years now and it’s something the team has adopted. From dealing with injuries to key players throughout the past two seasons to thriving on the second night of back-to-backs, Denver simply pushes through adversity. For the time being, that will have to continue to be the case in the bubble.

“We have who we have. Is it ideal? No, I’d rather have all 17 players here with us,” Malone said. “But we’re not going to look for or make any excuses to say why we’re not competing or playing hard. We have who we have and we’re going to work our butts off to get better every day.”

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