It has been reported that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig, and Monte Morris are not with the team, while other players have yet to be spotted in social media posts. Is this concerning?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): It always has to be a little concerning when the whole team is not together, but I’d give it a week or so before you can start freaking out. The Nuggets first official game is not until August 1st, so there is still a little over two weeks for these guys to get into the bubble and cleared to play.
With that being said, the missed practices is what’s really going to affect these players. If they can’t join the team for another week or so, it might be hard getting into game shape for that first game against the Heat. I’d put my concern level at about a 4.5 right now, but in a week it might be inching closer to a 10.
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Anytime you don’t see the entire team, it’s at least a little concerning. Today is Thursday, July 16th, and the Nuggets play their first exhibition game on July 22nd. Six days from now, the Nuggets will be asked to suit up and do more than just practice, and given the team’s goals of winning a championship, doing so without the full roster makes that impossibly difficult. I think we will hear from other Nuggets players in short order, but it wouldn’t surprise me if certain players weren’t available for the exhibition games.
Evan Fiala (@eefiala): At this point, yes it is concerning. Those are some key rotation players that the Nuggets are missing, which means less practice time together and less time for them to get back in full shape if/when they do arrive. More importantly though, if we want to speculate, one can only assume that the only reason they aren’t in Orlando yet is because of a positive covid test which would also be concerning. The health of everyone comes before basketball.
Quenton Albertie (@qshironalbertie): If the guys who haven’t joined weren’t rotation players, it wouldn’t be too much of a cause of concern so it does raise an eyebrow. However, in the grand scheme of things, so long as the majority of these guys show up sooner rather than later, the Nuggets should be fine. The team prides itself on their continuity, so they should be able to acclimate the missing players rather quickly.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I’m not really concerned about them getting up to speed - I don’t expect the Nuggets to throw in a bunch of wrinkles. It’s frustrating for someone like MPJ who desperately needs to prove he is fully healthy and deserves minutes from the jump, but there are weeks left for that. It’s concerning from a decision-making standpoint, but less so from a health one as no one from the Nuggets has been announced to be Covid-symptomatic. In that specific case, no news really is good news.
On the flip side, how excited were you to see Nikola Jokic rejoin and the team, and should we expect to see him in any of the exhibition games?
Ewing: Any time your teams best player goes down with an injury — or in these case sickness — there is always concern until he is back healthy and with the team. There was not as much of this with Jokic because of the amount of time he still had to join the bubble, but I think I speak for everyone when I say a big sigh of relief was felt around the city of Denver when those first pictures were released by the Nuggets social media team.
Blackburn: This was always in the works for the Nuggets, as Jokic made it to Disney World on Saturday before quarantining for three days. He finally emerged Tuesday, much to the relief of Nuggets fans. It was exciting to hear from Nikola on Tuesday evening as well, and I’m ready to see the big Serbian center back in action. I think he will play in at least two of the exhibition games, even if plays limited minutes. He has to get comfortable playing basketball again just like everybody else.
Fiala: Seeing those pictures of Jokic was like coming home after a long day. Like feeling the warmth of the sun on a windy afternoon. Like taking a hot shower for the first time after a long camping trip. Yes, I was extremely excited to see him there and healthy and yes he will be playing in some, if not all, of the exhibition games.
Albertie: Jokic is the center of attention (pun intended) in Denver, so his return was definitely a great sign to see. Not that there was much reason to doubt he would return but, nonetheless, there was always the possibility. Because he’s such an integral part of the team and he’s going to want to test out his new physique, I certainly believe he’ll play in many of the exhibition games.
Gross: Jokic is the sunshine in my morning, and the bits in my Kibbles ‘N Bits. He looks lean and in good spirits. He’s wearing masks and lacing up sneakers and taking part in practice. It all means nothing in the short term but Denver was going absolutely nowhere if anything was wrong with him, so seeing him fit and ready after his quarantine is excellent to see.
How does Bol Bol fit in with this Nuggets team and do you think he will play in any of the final eight regular season games?
Ewing: It really is tough to see Bol finding his place with the Nuggets roster this season, which is why I think next year is when Bol finally gets unleashed. The thing with this season is the Nuggets are so close to the playoffs that it’s tough to see a rookie — albeit it a really good one — make his debut as the team is pushing for a championship.
Now, I do think we see Bol play in the three exhibition games and that he might be able to sneak in some playing time in the final eight regular season games. Regardless of whether or not he plays this year, I think it is safe to say the Nuggets have another star rookie on their roster, similar to what the team had in Michael Porter Jr. last season.
Blackburn: This season, Bol Bol doesn’t really fit in well. The 7’2 skilled center is still only 20 years old and coming off a major foot surgery, and players in his position rarely play a significant role in the playoffs. Going forward, things may change, especially since the Nuggets like Bol a lot. His skill set and physical tools should allow the Nuggets to deploy him in unique ways going forward. I just don’t expect those ways to come in this bubble period. Could he play some extra minutes in the eight seeding games though? Garbage time is certainly possible.
Fiala: Bol Bol is on the same path as Michael Porter Jr. of two years ago. He is undeniably a skilled rookie, but the key word there is “rookie.” He will hopefully have the opportunity in the coming seasons to prove himself and become a core part of the team. For now, he will only play serious minutes if the roster remains depleted or if its garbage time. That said, I hope he does get some burn in the exhibition games.
Albertie: Just in terms of this season, it’s all but impossible to see Bol having a real role unless a player like Plumlee or (God forbid) Jokic goes down. However, with Malone looking to balance keeping his players healthy and getting them back in game shape, I can see him pulling out the main guys in the second half of some games. This would benefit both the team and Bol, giving them both a chance to see how he stacks up against opposing NBA players.
Gross: Bol Bol has barely practiced with the Nuggets. He’s gotten in zero games. I do not expect him to get any regular season or post-season time, as they’ll save his ROY campaign for next season. He might get exhibition time, and I would love love LOVE to see that. He too looks fit and ready. The Nuggets are taking the I’m In The Best Shape Of My Life summer seriously, and that’s always good to see. But no, I don’t expect real minutes for him in any way. That’s a 2021 unveiling, so just enjoy the practice videos and any exhibition time he can squeeze in. The Nuggets are making us stay patient with The Process.