Nikola Jokic could return sooner than expected

It’s not as if the Nuggets have Alex English to call upon at point guard while starting Nikola Jokic. He’s their starting center, too, and can be called upon for guard minutes. And Malone…

Nikola Jokic could return sooner than expected

It’s not as if the Nuggets have Alex English to call upon at point guard while starting Nikola Jokic. He’s their starting center, too, and can be called upon for guard minutes. And Malone says he’s got no timeline for Jokic to return from his wrist injury, which has kept him out for 10 games.

“No timeline,” Malone said Sunday. “Just we’re going to take our time with him, see how he responds, but he’s moving well and we’re just going to trust and believe in what he’s able to do.”

The Nuggets did get back sixth man Will Barton, who spent the last three games nursing a groin injury, and the energy he provided. Barton only played eight minutes in the game, but the Nuggets scored 82 points in his absence.

Denver’s Friday schedule had Jokic’s possible return slated for Saturday against Boston — for his actual return was pushed to Sunday afternoon when the Nuggets flew cross-country to take on Denver. Malone said Jokic’s growth as a leader is a big reason for the high expectations for this Nuggets team. And having confidence in Jokic’s recovery could bolster those.

“We’re a good team,” Malone said. “I think that all of our guys have just bought into what we’re trying to do and Nikola, he’s continuing to grow as a leader. I don’t think there’s one player on our team that doesn’t trust him. So, we just feel as long as he’s confident and can get back to being Nikola, we’re going to be fine.”

Footnotes

Paul Millsap had a nice game with his big night, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds, but that doesn’t overshadow the play of Barton, who also scored 19 points in just over 20 minutes. … Denver has now beaten teams with a winning record in 19 of its past 21 games. … Malone said Monday morning that Nikola Jokic has suffered a strained muscle on his left hand and had “shaved” a “spot or two” off his finger. … Asked about how tough the atmosphere and approach was for him in Denver’s win against Boston, Malone pointed to specific words from a longtime NBA head coach in that game. “The first thing that Phil Jackson said to me was ‘Man, you’re like Ron Artest, but you’re not playing,’” Malone said. “That was the first thing he said. It was great to hear that, because I’ve had situations in the past where I really wasn’t a fan of Ron Artest, but I wouldn’t say the exact same thing about Anthony Davis. I think there’s a clear dividing line. And with the best players in the NBA, players have to be able to hold their own. We can’t be buying into the hype of these guys, because they can be bigger than life. But at the end of the day, we need them to be there to lead.”

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