Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 11: Three Takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets rostered just eight players, only one of whom was a guard, in their scrimmage win against the Wizards Wednesday. They’ll likely have more members of their roster available Saturday.

The recent arrivals of Gary Harris, Torrey Craig along with the return to practice for Jamal Murray and Will Barton III could provide a welcome boost in personnel for the Nuggets’ second scrimmage against the Pelicans. Michael Porter Jr. has also landed in Orlando but isn’t expected to play in the matchup.

Here are the takeaways:

G is back!

Harris was a welcome sight in Friday’s practice and could be one of several players to make their scrimmage debuts on Saturday. The 26-year-old, who has had his struggles with injuries over the past few seasons, was optimistic the time away from basketball could be positive for several players in Orlando.

“[The hiatus] it’s not ideal, but a lot of guys got to get their rest, get their bodies right,” Harris said. “A lot of guys have still been able to work on their games. So, it’s just good to be back out here to finally get some real game action.”

Harris got off to a slow start this season but came on strong after the All-Star break. In the final six games of the season, he shot 63.8 percent from the field and converted 64.7 percent of his attempts from downtown. He also upped his production defensively, averaging two steals a contest during the same period. On the season, Harris is averaging 10.4 points and 1.4 steals while shooting 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc.

R.I.P. Video Game Lineup

It was fun while it lasted, but the odds are very high the Nuggets will go back to a more conventional starting five when they face the Pelicans on Saturday night.

With Harris and Craig back along with Murray and Barton III returning to practice, it could mean head coach Michael Malone will opt for his normal starting five: Murray, Harris, Barton III, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokić.

“It was good to have those guys here and not only have eight players for practice,” Malone said at his Zoom availability.

The Nuggets’ decision to opt for a lineup that featured three centers and two power forwards was met with universal acclaim on social media. Fans dubbed it the anti-small ball, which prompted Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey to post a hilarious tweet about it.

Although Harris, Barton III, Murray, and Craig might see some action, Malone cautioned it could be limited.

“It is still going to be really cautious moving forward with how we use guys tomorrow against New Orleans,” Malone said. “We’ll kind of figure out who's available and who is not, but to have them participate in the practice was great. Just [to] have more energy and more bodies.” 

Everyone is still talking about Bol

Bol had a memorable debut in his first Nuggets action and his efforts on both sides of the floor Wednesday was still a hot topic in Friday’s media availability.

“[The fact that he was able to] finally get a chance to go out there and compete, play and do so at a high level is remarkable,” Malone said. “For him to have those numbers in his first game against NBA competition is great. But what really excites me is not that game, but how much room he has to continue to grow. He will because he is so young and he will improve and the sky is definitely the limit for him.”

Harris was also impressed with what he saw from Bol.

“He played terrific,” Harris said. “I don’t think any of us are surprised, we know what Bol can do. We’ve seen him work out plenty of times and seen him play a little bit [in the G League]…We know that he’s a tremendous talent and it was just good to see him go out there so the whole world could see what he could do.”

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