Normally during this time of the year, the NBA would be in full-on offseason mode right about now. The Finals and NBA draft would have come and gone and training camp wouldn’t be taking place for almost two months. We would quite literally be in a basketball drought.
Instead, the NBA is in full swing more than four months after the hiatus that began on March 11, 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Denver Nuggets tip off their first game this morning against the Miami Heat, and I, for one, could not be more excited.
Still, it has not been an easy road getting here, especially for the Nuggets. Since the first week of July, they have been patiently waiting for all of their players to arrive in Orlando. One by one (or sometimes two by two), the players arrived. Finally, the team has their full roster in Orlando (with the exception of Vlatko Cancar who is rehabbing an injury). Now all that’s left to be determined is how the Nuggets will fare in the eight seeding games that remain, to be followed by their second straight playoff appearance.
Record in exhibition games: 1-2
Overall record: 43-22
Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Washington Wizards
This was an easy one to pick, because the Nuggets only won one of their exhibition games. If you were looking forward to these games for an accurate representation of how the team would look going forward this season, you probably were disappointed. The Nuggets did not have their full roster available for any of these games, and it was clear that Michael Malone wanted to experiment with different lineups as a result. To start the game, fans were shocked to learn that Malone was going with an ultra-big lineup, the likes of which we have not seen before. Nikola Jokic (C) started at point guard, Jerami Grant (SF/PF) at shooting guard, Bol Bol (C) at small forward, Paul Millsap at power forward, and Mason Plumlee at center. Perhaps the best part of this game was getting to watch Bol Bol’s NBA debut, as he has been sidelined for over a year and a half with a foot injury. He did not disappoint, either. (continue reading for more on Bol Bol).
Highlight of the Month: Bol Bol makes great defensive stop, followed by unbelievable offensive play
It’s no surprise that Bol Bol is a threat at the rim for any offensive player, what with his 7’8 wingspan and all. This was on full display during the Nuggets’ scrimmage against the Washington Wizards. During the first quarter, Bol Bol blocked a shot from just inside the free throw line, dribbled it past half court, and then fired one from range for three points. It was a play that garnered national attention and led to Bol Bol becoming a trending topic on Twitter. And this was not the only impressive play that he had during the exhibition games...
BOL BOL HAS ARRIVED— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 22, 2020
Block and then the pull up three pic.twitter.com/2N8JdYFgO3
Player of the month: Bol Bol makes his debut
From the very first highlight of Bol Bol shared by the Denver Nuggets on their official social media accounts, fans have been absolutely captivated by the emergence of Bol Bol. If there’s one bright spot for the Nuggets about the NBA having to go on hiatus, it’s that we have gotten to see Bol Bol’s debut this season. So far, we’ve witnessed several of his strengths, including his defense thanks to his long wingspan, his ability to shoot from range, and his ability to finish at the rim. All of this is extremely exciting for Nuggets fans, as it is becoming clear that Bol Bol will be a part of this young core for the foreseeable future.
Story of the Month: The NBA is BACK!
For a long time after the NBA went on hiatus over four months ago, many fans had started to accept the fact that there may not be sports for the rest of the year. As COVID cases continued to rise and social justice movements took hold of the nation following the death of George Floyd, it seemed more and more likely that we would not see a conclusion to the 2019-2020 season. After all, sports was the last thing on anybody’s minds during that period. However, when the NBA suggested the idea of a “Bubble” in Orlando, it immediately resulted in eager anticipation as we all followed every development closely, holding our breath and hoping that nothing would put a pin it. So far, the bubble seems to be doing its job, as all of the players are staying healthy. Let’s just hope that stays the case for the entirety of the season.
Surprise of the month: Denver Nuggets spend off day at golf course
During one of their off days in Orlando, the Nuggets decided to head to the driving range for a team event. Several players decided to highlight the event on their social media platforms, and let’s just say there were a lot of captured gems. Perhaps the best part was watching Jamal Murray trying out the sport while shirtless, with Millsap providing his amusing commentary. There’s bound to be more of these outings in the bubble, as being in a resort at Walt Disney World definitely provides ample opportunity for the team to get together while enjoying a luxurious activity. Let’s just hope the players continue giving us glimpses of these events on social media.
From the outfit to Paul Millsap being his coach, Jamal Murray trying out golf is the best thing you will see today pic.twitter.com/rovKND1Y4W— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717) July 21, 2020
Grade for the Month: N/A
It hardly seems fair to give the team a grade this month, considering that they had four months off and the team was so short-handed during the scrimmages that everybody was forced to play out of position. Overall, there were a lot of things to be encouraged about. Jamal Murray looked great in his only game, Bol Bol showed us flashes of what a force he is going to be in the future, and Michael Porter Jr. had a great game in his sole performance, scoring 19 points on 8/13 shooting. As far as where the team stands in comparison to the other contenders in the league, we will have to wait for the games that count to make that determination.
What’s new on Denver Stiffs:
The Denver Stiffs have been in full swing this month gearing up for the restart. Here are just some of them that you should read if you have not done so already.
The Denver Stiffs staff all contributed in this preview in which we all made predictions about how the Nuggets will fare in Orlando.
Evan Fiala looks back at Michael Porter Jr.’s season so far, and looks forward to what he can bring to the team in Orlando.
Zach Mikash asks the question many of us are probably asking ourselves: Why can’t the Denver Nuggets win it all this year?
Gage Bridgford guesses what version of Nikola Jokic we will see for the conclusion of this NBA season.
The Nuggets struggled getting everybody into the bubble, but as Ryan Blackburn points out, other teams have had their fair share of tribulations in Orlando so far.
Quenton Albertie made his Denver Stiffs debut with this article that contemplates how the Nuggets’ big lineups could aid them going forward this season.
In this piece, Zach Mikash looks at whether or not this season will have an asterisk next to it due to the unprecedented circumstances.