For much of his tenure as the head coach of the Nuggets, Michael Malone has found himself in a high-stakes game of Jenga. His wooden blocks are the nightly decisions he makes about who starts and who fits into the rotation. He has removed those blocks and stacked them into different spots as frequently as any coach in the NBA season the past two seasons, partly due to a long list of injuries and partly in an effort to find often-elusive consistency. Now, just as the Nuggets’ proverbial stack has stopped swaying, with Denver (32-26) winning six of its last seven games to move into sixth place in the Western Conference, Malone must incorporate two more important pieces, forwards Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee, into the delicate tower without making the whole thing tumble to the ground. All that is on the line is the team’s first playoff appearance in five years. “It’s a good thing. It’s also a challenging thing,” Malone said of the impending returns of two key big men. “You look at our offensive numbers in the month of February — I’ve never seen numbers like that. Now, unfortunately, our defensive numbers are just as bad as our offense is good. That’s where you miss Mason and Paul. People don’t understand the impact both of those guys have.” Millsap and Plumlee both practiced Wednesday night as the Nuggets ended the all-star break with their first practice since the team’s Feb. 15 victory at Milwaukee. Plumlee, out since Jan. 29 with a calf injury, said he’ll be ready to go when the Nuggets host the Spurs on Friday night. Millsap, who has been out since the middle of November after undergoing wrist surgery, said he’s unlikely to play this week. But his return to a full practice Wednesday was important step as Denver’s big free-agent acquisition aims to return in time to help the Nuggets make a finishing push toward the playoffs.
Nuggets will soon have Plumlee and Millsap back. Is there any concern that will disrupt a surging lineup?
Denver Post | Feb 22