Gary Harris and Paul Millsap were the center of attention on Thursday afternoon following an extended practice session for the Denver Nuggets. Both players fully participated for the first time since their respective injuries and they spoke with the media afterwards. Head coach Michael Malone also reflected on the loss to the Spurs and shed some light on how he plans to reintegrate his injured players.
Here’s everything you need to know, and watch, from practice on December 27th, 2018.
Harris is officially OUT for tomorrow night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, but conversations with people around the team suggest that he’s the closest to a return. Malone himself said he expects Harris to “be back before anybody.”
“Nah, I don’t (have a target date),” Gary Harris told the media with a wry smile when prompted for some sort of a timeline. “We’ll see. Like I said, just taking it one day at a time, but hopefully sooner rather than later.”
When asked for a more specific diagnosis on what exactly he’s recovering from, Harris smiled again and shot a quick glance at the head of PR before delivering an A+ non-answer:
“It was a hip injury.”
Millsap is also listed as OUT for tomorrow night’s game as he recovers from a broken toe and he too declined to offer a target date for his return:
“(It’s a) pain tolerance, day-to-day situation. (I’ll) see how it feels the next few days, but like I said, I’m not going to rush it. I have great confidence in our group of guys that they can get out there and perform and get the job done without me, so I’m taking my time and being patient.”
Millsap is in no hurry to return and admitted that he may have rushed things last season when asked to reflect on what he learned from that recovery process.
“(I) may have forced it a little bit last year coming back, wasn’t one hundred percent. So this time around just make sure to do it right, make sure I feel good, (that) I’m at a good level and can go out there and play my game.”
Malone spoke candidly with the media after working his players well beyond the anticipated duration of Thursday’s practice. He described the home-and-away matchup with the Spurs as being similar to a playoff series and spoke as if he was relishing the opportunity to prepare his guys for that type of basketball.
He was asked if he’s formulated a plan yet for the eventual reintegration of his injured players:
“I don’t have a plan yet, you know what I mean? The exciting thing is they are all getting closer — when do they get back? Who knows what that means? But, to have them slowly integrating back into practices is great.
“When they’re able to return, I want those guys to know—it’s not like I expect Gary, who I think will be back before anybody, to come in and save the day. Maybe it will be easier to bring him off the bench and ease him back into it. These guys have been out for a while, Will Barton’s been out since game two of the season, so, ease guys back in. And that lessens the burden and will lower the demands on everybody else.”
Updates on Harris and Millsap have prompted inquiries into Barton’s status, for which there is nothing new to report. There are no official setbacks, at least to my knowledge, but his recovery is taking longer than the initial timeline that was reported. Unlike Harris, Barton is recovering from a surgery on his hip/core area and is taking a more cautious approach.
He has yet to fully participate in a practice since sustaining the injury during the second game of the season.