The waiting game continues for injured Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., but at least he’s back on the practice court.
Porter, who’s missed the past nine games with a left heel strain, has already been ruled out for Denver’s game against Washington on Wednesday night at Ball Arena, but he took some baby steps toward a return at practice Monday.
“He’s doing good,” coach Michael Malone said. “We did a lot of shooting, and today was the first day Michael participated in parts of practice. So he’s definitely feeling better.
“I don’t think he will be ready for Wednesday night, but just having him in practice, having him in the drills, seeing him shoot the ball … it was great to have him back.”
In 16 games, Porter is averaging 16.4 points and 6.0 rebounds a game on 46.6% shooting. He averaged 29.1 minutes per game before the heel injury landed him on the bench.
“Hopefully, as we progress through the week, we can expose him to more drills and some more contact and try to get him back on that court,” Malone said.
The Nuggets have gone 6-3 during Porter’s absence. And there is no way Malone is going to rush Porter back.
“Obviously, Michael is a starter and he’s a big piece to what we are doing, but when you have the injury that he has to his heel, it makes it very hard to move on the floor,” Malone said. “If you’re not able to go out there and play your game effectively, and help our team, then you shouldn’t be out there. So he’ll come back when he’s able to go out there and play his game.”
Porter, 24, was limited to nine games last season because of back issues that have plagued him since his rookie season in 2019-20.
Gordon’s take. Count veteran forward Aaron Gordon as the latest player to admit that the Nuggets aren’t playing up to their potential, particularly on defense.
“It’s about us,” he said. “It’s about the standard that we hold ourselves to. We have to bring that every night.”
He also thinks the Nuggets should be better than 16-10.
“We have definitely dropped games that we didn’t want to drop,” he said. “That’s definitely the challenge for us, to take care of business in games we are supposed to win. But I think we are in a good spot right now.”
Talkin’ about practice. After getting Sunday off following their 115-110 win over Utah on Saturday night, the Nuggets will have two days of practice to prepare for the Wizards on Wednesday. Monday’s practice was a relatively light affair, with no live scrimmaging, while Tuesday’s practice will be a little more intense.
“Eight years ago, when we had a three-day break, I probably would have wanted to practice three hours a day,” Malone said. “And then when we’d get to Wednesday night and we’d be tired, I’d say, ‘Why are we so tired?’
“Well, because we just left our fight in the gym. So I think how we use these days is really important.”