Leaner version of Jokic ready to carry load for Nuggets

Pound for pound, no matter that will at the moment be, he’s one of the highest facilities within the league. Maybe even level guards, for that matter.

He doesn’t play like your typical large man. His imaginative and prescient and passing make him that rather more troublesome to defend, whether or not he’s at 284 kilos (his weight earlier than the hiatus) or his new sleeker weight. Now that he’s arrived at Walt Disney World, he’s keen to carry the load because the Nuggets return to the court docket in possession of the No. Three seed within the Western Conference.

“He was playing at an All-NBA, first-team level prior to the league being suspended,” coach Michael Malone mentioned. “He simply continued that over the break. He appears to be like nice.

“I count on him to play the way in which he was enjoying prior to the league being suspended and are available out and play at a really, very excessive degree. He’s the most effective heart within the NBA. Why wouldn’t he?”

Time and once more, the participant nicknamed “Joker” has come up clutch for the Nuggets this season — hitting 4 game-winners as well as to recording 12 triple-doubles.

And whereas his distinctive model of hoops isn’t new to these across the league, the remaining of the world caught an enormous glimpse of it throughout the 2018-19 playoffs. Jokic averaged 25.1 factors, eight.Four assists and 13 rebounds because the Nuggets beat the San Antonio Spurs in seven video games earlier than falling to Portland in seven.

“Maybe I’m going to surprise everybody. Maybe I’m not going to be good. So we will see,” Jokic mentioned. “I’m just happy to be here, to finally come to Orlando to be with the team.”

Jokic mentioned he was shocked his COVID-19 take a look at got here again optimistic in late June. The outcome was the identical day that one other prime Serbian athlete — Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked males’s tennis participant — revealed that he and his spouse had examined optimistic for the virus. Djokovic and Jokic had been collectively at an occasion earlier in June, although it could actually’t be concluded it performed in a job within the optimistic take a look at of both athlete.

“It was kind of weird because I was feeling good. I was feeling normal,” Jokic mentioned. “They said that I’m positive, so it was kind of surprising. Then I called everybody and they said that’s fine, your health is the most important thing, and they’re right.”

Malone has been working with a short-handed group whereas in Florida. The group just lately had Torrey Craig and Gary Harris arrive on the bubble and can quickly have again Michael Porter Jr.

The absences has given Malone an opportunity to get artistic together with his lineups. He could use 7-foot-2 rookie Bol Bol, who’s obtainable after not enjoying in an NBA recreation this season.

After a win over Detroit on Feb. 25, the Nuggets had been 40-18 — matching their finest 58-game begin of their NBA historical past. But they hit a skid and went Three-Four, together with a loss in Dallas on March 11 that was the NBA’s closing recreation earlier than the league was shut down.

“When the season ended, we were not really good,” Jokic mentioned. “It’s basically a new season. We need to start over.”

Jamal Murray and the Nuggets are bonding over extra than simply basketball. They’re hitting the driving vary, the swimming pool and even p laying some tag. Murray additionally hosted a latest group breakfast. They’re banking on their chemistry to assist them make a run.

The group mentioned the legacy of civil rights chief John Lewis prior to observe over the weekend. Malone additionally despatched alongside a hyperlink to the Lewis documentary “Good Trouble.”

“We realized we lost a great freedom fighter and all he accomplished,” Malone mentioned. “We wanted to talk and get to know him a little more.”

The 7-2 Bol — with a 7-7 wingspan — actually made fairly a splash by scoring 16 factors and grabbing 10 rebounds in Denver’s first scrimmage recreation towards Washington.

A second-round select of Oregon (by Miami together with his rights despatched to Denver on draft night time), Bol was restricted to a handful of video games this season within the G League as he handled a left foot ailment. He’s the son of Manute Bol, the previous NBA heart.

Asked if his efficiency towards the Wizards was the beginning of proving everybody fallacious after falling within the draft, Bol responded: “I hope so.”

AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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