Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. has breakout game, drops 37, Nuggets top Thunder in OT

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Michael Porter Jr. scored a career-high 37 points and Nikola Jokic had a triple-double to help the Denver Nuggets top the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-113 in overtime on Monday.

Porter, who averages just 7.5 points, had the big performance in only his third start of the season.

“He has got tremendous size, length, he can score the ball, he’s got soft touch and he does so (scores) in a very efficient manner,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “He can also rebound at a very high level. Tonight, we saw all those things put together.”

Porter made 12 of 16 shots and grabbed 12 rebounds. His previous career high was 25 points.

“All I’ve got to focus on is bringing the energy and the effort, lock in on defense and the rest will take care of itself,” Porter said.

Jokic had 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to help Denver strengthen its hold on third place in the Western Conference standings.

It was a key win for the Nuggets, who were missing three starters. Jamal Murray sat out with left hamstring tightness, forward Will Barton sat out with left knee soreness and guard Gary Harris sat out with a strained right hip.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 points, Chris Paul had 23 and Danilo Gallinari added 20 for the Thunder, who also were short-handed. Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City’s No. 3 scorer for the season, left the bubble to join his wife for the birth of their second child.

The game was close throughout. Denver’s Monte Morris was fouled with 6 seconds remaining, and he made both free throws to give the Nuggets a 109-108 lead. Paul missed the first and made the second of two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to tie the game at 109. Denver’s Troy Daniels missed a floater from near the free throw line at the buzzer, and the game went to overtime.

In the extra period, Denver outscored Oklahoma City 12-4 and held the Thunder to one field goal.

“In the overtime, I thought we played terrific on both ends of the floor,” Malone said.

Nuggets won’t ‘muzzle’ Michael Porter Jr. after he said coronavirus ‘being used for population control’

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.
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Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. posted Adam Silver’s cell phone number on Snapchat last August.

Porter nearly made it a full year until another Snapchat controversy.

Porter on Snapchat:

Personally, I think that the coronavirus is being used obviously for a bigger agenda. And it’s being used for population control in just terms of being able to control the masses of people. I mean, because of the virus, the whole world is being controlled. I mean, you’re required to wear masks.

And who knows what will happen when this vaccine comes out? You might have to have the vaccine in order to travel. That would be crazy. I’ve never been vaccinated in my life. I’ve never had any shots or anything like that. So, it could get crazy.

But there’s definitely an agenda behind everything that’s going on right now, and all you can do is sit back and watch what’s going on. Don’t get too emotionally involved.

But, yeah, I mean, it is a serious thing. It’s a real thing. But, yes, it’s being overblown.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone, via Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

“I know that Tim Connelly and our front office have talked to Michael about his comments last night and this morning, long before I realized what was said,” Malone said. “So it has been talked to him. He understands the situation, but we as an organization are not going to put a muzzle on anybody. If somebody has a strong belief on something, they have the platform and freedom to use that. We’ll just try to educate guys so they understand the impact of what they may be saying.”

This is a completely reasonable response by the Nuggets. More than ever, NBA players are encouraged to speak out. That’s great. Like everyone, NBA players deserve freedom of expression. But it won’t always lead to “approved” messages – nor should it.

When players say something disagreeable… disagree with them! And for those positioned to do so, educate players when they’re wrong or misguided.

There’s plenty of opportunities with what Porter said.

I don’t think Porter meant “population control” in the standard sense of the term (limiting the number of a population). That’d be quite dark. I believe he meant, with coronavirus existing, it’s being used as an excuse to control what people do.

But know what actually puts massive restrictions of how people live? Not masks. Coronavirus itself. Masks allow people to regain some freedom amid this pandemic.

That’d work better if more people took coronavirus more seriously. Though there are naturally both people who take coronavirus too seriously and people who don’t take it seriously enough, Porter is railing against the smaller side.

Also, vaccines are good:

Seven most intriguing impending free agents in NBA resumption

Grizzlies guard De'Anthony Melton and Nuggets forward Jerami Grant
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After a breakout season, Davis Bertans decided he’d done enough. Bertans chose not to join the Wizards for the NBA resumption at Disney World. He’ll bide his time before free agency, where he’ll almost certainly cash in.

Bertans stayed.

Many more impending free agents are hitting and trying not to bust.

NBA players seeking new contracts this offseason will face a tough environment. Economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will reduce revenue and owners’ discretionary spending. Even optimistic projections for next season have the salary cap remaining roughly flat (with greater salary withholding) – a disapointment after expected 5% growth.

With cap room dashed around the league, there will be greater importance in impending free agents impressing their own teams, which can re-sign players through Bird Rights. And, of course, there’s still value in creating leverage with the few teams that have cap space or are willing to spend the full mid-level exception.

For some players, the seeding games, potential play-in games and playoffs could be particularly important.

These are not the best impending free agents. Lakers star Anthony Davis will get max offers no matter what happens the rest of the season. Plenty of other impending free agents have already shown their level of play and are unlikely to swing their fortunes in this condensed finish.

Here are the impending free agents with the widest range of possible outcomes based on how the rest of the season goes:

Marcus Morris, forward, Clippers

The Clippers reportedly offered Morris a three-year, $41 million contract last summer. He instead signed a one-year deal with the Knicks (after initially committing to the Spurs)… then got traded to the Clippers. Obviously, L.A. has some interest. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer also has the deep pockets and winning desire to keep spending amid the economic downturn. As third forward behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Morris is more of a luxury. A luxury the Clippers are willing to pay big for? It probably depends how well Morris fits the rest of the way – and how far L.A. goes. The cap-space teams skew younger and might not have interest in the 30-year-old Morris. His most likely path, by far, to a contract above the mid-level exception is with the Clippers.

Jerami Grant, power forward, Nuggets

Paul Millsap, power forward, Nuggets

By trading a first-round pick for Grant last summer, Denver clearly signaled an intent to re-sign him. Grant has been solid at power forward. The 26-year-old could definitely make sense with the Nuggets long-term. But he hasn’t quite played well enough to absolutely seize the long-term job. At 35, Millsap remains steady, and his interior defense particularly covers well for Nikola Jokic. Millsap helps Denver win right now, and Denver is eager to win right now. But how long will he remain this good? How will expensive will he be? For that matter, how expensive will Grant be? Could Michael Porter Jr. or even Bol Bol be ready for larger roles sooner than later? Though the Nuggets will be allowed to re-sign both Grant and Millsap at any price based on salary-cap rules, the luxury-tax line (or lower) will likely serve as a hard cap. The playoffs could clarify which power forward Denver will pay.

Derrick Jones Jr., forward, Heat

Miami is clearly prioritizing 2021 free agency. That’s why – even if re-signing free agents like Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Meyers Leonard – the Heat are are unlikely to give multi-year guarantees. Jones could be the exception. He’s just 23, already helpful and still has clear areas for growth. Jones’ length and athleticism make him a defensive weapon, especially in Erik Spoelstra’s creative schemes. The reigning dunk contest champion, Jones is an excellent finisher with emerging shooting range. This is the time for him to convince Miami it’s important enough to keep him despite complications in 2021.

De'Anthony Melton, guard, Grizzlies

Ja Morant gets – and deserves – so much credit for lifting Memphis. But the Grizzlies have actually been outscored with him on the court. Make no mistake: There’s a lot of value in a rookie point guard who can lead a starting lineup to break nearly even against other starters. But the Grizzlies have really made their hay with their reserves – particularly Melton. He’s a menace defensively and good secondary ball-handler/passer. There are still plenty of rough edges with his game – outside shooting, turnovers (especially when playing point guard). But the 22-year-old will make for a compelling restricted free agent, particularly to the young teams with cap space. Melton is big enough to get an expanded role at Disney World with small forward Justise Winslow sidelined.

John Konchar, wing, Grizzlies

Konchar was incredibly productive in college. He shot 2-pointers efficiently. He shot 3-pointers efficiently. He rebounded. He defended. He passed. The only drawback: He was doing all that at IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne). So, he went undrafted last year. But after signing a two-way contract with Memphis, Konchar is playing similarly effectively – in the NBA! He has played just 167 minutes with the Grizzlies, so sample-size caveats obviously apply. But he had cracked the rotation when the season got suspended, and there’s plenty of interest in seeing more. With a strong finish, the impending restricted free agent could tempt a risk-taking team into an offer sheet Memphis would find difficult to match.

Mike D’Antoni, coach, Rockets

After an unfruitful summer of contract negotiations, D’Antoni coached the Rockets on the last year of his deal this season. And coached them well. His offensive creativity helped unlock a small-ball lineup that features, depending on your perspective, either P.J. Tucker or Russell Westbrook at center. But it’s still unclear whether Houston will keep D’Antoni. Most teams would’ve extended him by now. So, a breakup appears likely – unless D’Antoni forces the Rockets’ hand with a deep playoff run. Though moderate postseason success might not be enough to save his job in Houston, D’Antoni could gain interest from other teams. So much of his arguments about continuing to coach despite his age putting him at high risk of severe symptoms if he contracts coronavirus seem to be predicated on an underlying argument: He wants to keep coaching beyond this season.

Report: Denver’s Gary Harris, Torrey Craig to arrive at restart Sunday

gary Harris Torrey Craig
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Denver’s Nikola Jokic was late arriving to the NBA restart in Orlando because he was recovering from the coronavirus.

Now two other Nuggets who were not yet on the Walt Disney World campus for undisclosed reasons — Gary Harris and Torrey Craig — are set to arrive, reports Kendra Andrews of The Athletic.

Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone would not confirm or deny the report. The two would be available Wednesday at the earliest, the day of Denver’s first scrimmage/preseason game, going against Washington. It’s highly unlikely Harris or Craig would appear in that game, even if available.

Denver is still shorthanded in the bubble, Harris and Craig would bring the total to 12 players (which includes all five starters). It is known that Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, PJ Dozier, and Keita Bates-Diop are not currently with the team in Orlando.

Harris and Craig are critical to the Nuggets’ defense if the team wants to prove itself more than just a regular-season threat. Harris is the starting two guard who averaged 10.4 points a game, while Craig came off the bench on the wing and the team defense was 4.8 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court.

Reports: Nikola Jokic completes quarantine; Monte Morris didn’t travel with Nuggets

Nuggets guard Monte Morris and center Nikola Jokic
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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic tested positive for coronavirus in Serbia. Gary Harris, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. didn’t travel with Denver to Orlando, either.

And neither did backup point guard Monte Morris.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

This doesn’t explicitly say Morris contracted coronavirus. But like a report on Rockets star James Hardenfeeling fine,” an assessment of symptoms invites speculation.

At least Jokic, as expected, arrived at Disney World.

Nuggets:

Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

Jokic has finished his quarantine but still needs to undergo physical testing by team staffers before he can practice, according to a team source. Jokic is slated to watch Tuesday night’s practice.

It was already difficult to predict how Jokic would fare physically in the resumption. His illness and delayed travel only add variables.

There isn’t much clarity on the rest of the roster, either. Harris is Denver’s starting shooting guard. Morris, Craig and Porter are key reserves.

When seeding games begin later this month, will the Nuggets resemble the team we saw most of the season? As the team’s top player, Jokic returning is a huge step. But depth was a strength of Denver’s, and that’s in jeopardy.