Nuggets coach Michael Malone called franchise cornerstones Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray doubtful for Monday’s preseason exhibition game against Phoenix as both work their way back from their respective wrist and hamstring injuries.
Jokic participated in most of practice on Sunday, but the team opted to hold him out of the contact portion so as to avoid any unnecessary risk. He underwent an MRI for his sprained right wrist that didn’t show anything alarming.
Murray left Friday night’s game late in the first half at Chicago and went through “very little” of practice, according to Malone. The Nuggets plan to be cautious with him as he ramps up his workload amid his return from left ACL surgery.
“I wouldn’t say long-term concern with what happened in Chicago, but, yeah, there’s long-term concern in terms of how we approach the day-to-day and being smart, being prudent,” Malone said.
With Denver’s final three preseason games all crammed into this week, Malone left open the possibility that he might not play Jokic and Murray anymore in the preseason. While not ruling Murray out prematurely, his point was that he intends to employ a cautious, careful approach throughout the season.
A bigger concern for Malone right now is the team’s defense, or lack of it. Following an 0-2 preseason start that featured abysmal defense in both instances, Malone reinforced the defensive concepts Sunday that the coaches hammered during training camp in San Diego.
He was perplexed because, in his words, “we play harder in practice than we do in the games.”
The Nuggets’ transition defense, and at times, their interior defense, was inexcusable against Chicago. In Malone’s opinion, that was more a function of effort than any schematic breakdowns. During a film session Sunday the coaches highlighted 10 defensive lapses against Chicago.