DENVER (AP) – Even on a roster that includes reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, goaltender Will Barton has said the Denver Nuggets’ guiding philosophy in 2021-22 will be to “win by committee.”
At least until Jamal Murray gets back into the lineup.
“Yeah, I think it’s relevant,” said coach Michael Malone. “I think Will’s state of mind is what it takes to start the season without Jamal Murray.”
The Nuggets star forward tore his left ACL last April, an injury that ultimately nullified Denver’s championship aspirations.
“I remember talking to our team the next day and it was kind of what I had argued at the time: no, there is not another Jamal Murray in this team and I do not want than whoever tries to be Jamal, ”said Malone. “No, we were going to make up for it as a committee, as long as everyone brought the best version of themselves.”
That’s exactly what they did, going 13-5 down the stretch and beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs before being knocked out by Phoenix.
“And now, as we start this new season. I think it has to be the same mindset, ”said Malone. “It’s by commission. We’re going to need everyone to do their best every day. And obviously you know Nikola had an MVP season last year, but we also need everyone to step up and knowing the group like I do, I anticipate that to happen.
No one, not even Murray, knows when he will return.
“Just five months ago, I couldn’t lift my leg off the bed,” Murray said recently. “So, I’ve come a long way. But even when I do certain things, I have to remember that I can’t do it at the speed or level that I want to do it. … It will come with time. And I can’t rush the time.
And the Nuggets won’t rush Murray either.
“He’ll be back when he’s ready,” said Tim Connelly, president of the team’s basketball operations. “Not when told, not a date on the calendar. Only he will know when he is ready. And we are at zero precipitation.
The Nuggets’ relatively quiet offseason shows they really want everyone to take over until Murray returns.
Connelly didn’t overreact and signed a free agency shooting goaltender, instead bringing back much of the same roster as 47-25 last season. He quickly re-signed Barton and JaMychal Green, brought back Austin Rivers and Aaron Gordon, and added Jeff Green.
“We have a lot of guys who want to be here,” said Malone. “It speaks to the group we have and the culture we have. And a sort of common phrase and common themes throughout the summer in my discussions with all of these players was that we feel like we have unfinished business. “
Malone was also thrilled with two other big offseason moves: drafting VCU’s Bones Hyland with the 26th pick and signing forward Michael Porter Jr. for a maximum five-year extension that could be worth up to 207. millions of dollars.
The contract capped a meteoric rise for Porter, whose Missouri varsity basketball career was derailed by a back injury so severe that many questioned whether it was worth the risk of being caught in the NBA Draft. 2018. He slipped to Denver at No. 14, the final selection in the lottery. Porter missed his first season in Denver after undergoing back surgery in July 2018.
After a strong performance after the resumption of the NBA season following the pandemic delay in 2020, Malone averaged 19 points and 7.3 rebounds last season. He also led the Nuggets with 170 3 points.
Malone said Porter can take another leap this year by focusing on Turn 3.
The 6-foot-10 Porter also worked to bolster his defense.
A year after leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in the Walt Disney World bubble in Florida, Jokic led his team through a grueling season marked by a wave of injuries.
Amid all of these injuries – not to mention a busy season where virtually everyone rested along the way – Jokic was a rare everyday player, a great man who recorded big minutes. He is the only player to have started all of his team’s regular season games over the past two seasons, being on the field for a warning every 145 times.
This may not be the case in 2021.
The Nuggets are talking about managing his minutes to keep him cool, and Jokic agrees with the plan to take a night off here and there.
“I think it’s a smart thing to do, especially last year you see how many players get injured and how many players missed games,” Jokic said.
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