Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 8: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

After a day off to begin the weekend, the Denver Nuggets took to the practice court Sunday as the focus begins to shift to the team’s upcoming scrimmage games.

With Denver facing the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, the ramp-up to the resumption of the 2019-20 season continues to intensify. Three scrimmage games over the next eight days will provide the Nuggets with an opportunity to face different competition following weeks of practices.

Following Sunday’s practice, head coach Michael Malone and Noah Vonleh spoke to the media. Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s session.

Malone wants to balance the focus between basketball and social justice issues

Prior to taking questions from the media, Malone began his availability with two statements. The first was regarding Nathanial Rateliff and the Lumineers, a band based in Denver that recently boycotted Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre following a Greenwood Village resolution to defend police officers. The resolution defends police offers who are sued under Colorado’s new police reform law.

“The fact that we have some of the best musicians in the world located in Denver, taking that stance to boycott Fiddler’s Green in support of the Black Lives Matter movement I think is outstanding,” Malone said.

Malone then revealed that prior to practice beginning, he took time to speak to the team about the life and legacy of John Lewis, who passed away late Friday evening. Malone explained that he sent a link to the documentary Good Trouble, which was released earlier this month and covers Lewis’s life and work to fight for civil rights, voting rights, health care reform and other prominent issues in society.

“(I want) to make sure that it’s not just about our pick-and-roll defense or offensive execution,” Malone said Sunday. “That is important as we get closer to playing games, but I know that we are dedicated as an organization to make sure we’re doing as much as we can to continue to keep that conversation and that light where it needs to be.”

Malone also revealed that the team plans to record several public service announcements with the I am a voter organization while stationed in Orlando.

Nuggets not looking to rush or overwork players, look forward to scrimmages

A topic of many conversations over the past two weeks has been the availability of Denver’s players in the bubble.

Coaches have had to get creative in order to properly scrimmage and run drills, while the clock continues to tick for Denver as scrimmage games begin on Wednesday.

However, Malone and the training staff are ensuring that no player is rushed or overworked physically, especially as they continue to join the team in the bubble. Although the Nuggets will play in three scrimmages over the ensuing week, the real focus remains on the seeding games that begin on Aug. 1 and the playoffs which will begin on Aug. 17.

At the same time, Malone and the Nuggets are looking forward to using the scrimmages to face different competition, which can help provide different coverages and perspectives for both the offense and defense to figure out.

“We have only been practice one-on-zero and now down here four-on-four for a while,” Malone explained. “So it’s going to be great to have an opportunity to play against different teams. I think when the scrimmages begin on Wednesday, the seeding games on Aug. 1 and the playoffs on Aug. 17, fans or no fans our players are going to be ready to play, and I look forward to that.”

Denver’s first scrimmage against Washington will air on Altitude TV on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. MT.

The bubble has only strengthened team chemistry

These are unique circumstances. However, the positives of such a situation that Denver (and 21 other teams) find itself in can be reflected in the team’s chemistry both on-and-off the court.

As evidenced in several videos coming from Orlando in recent weeks, the team is bonding during practices, pool workouts and in their free time. Malone revealed that following a dinner Saturday night, several players and coaches played cornhole and cards outside the hotel.

Just this morning before practice, Jamal Murray hosted a team breakfast for everyone. The Nuggets have benefitted from continuity in their roster over the past couple of years which already allowed the team to build a strong connection.

However, that chemistry only continues to grow, which can help the team over the next month or two as players prepare for games in the most unique environments.

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