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Nuggets' coach Malone discusses players not yet with team in Orlando

Malone confirmed All-Star center Nikola Jokic should arrive "relatively soon," but would not comment on other players who aren't in Orlando yet.
Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 9, 2020, in Denver.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Denver Nuggets believe they can win an NBA title this season.

To do it they'll need their best players on the court, and right now, it's not clear that's a given. 

With the majority of the team in Orlando ahead of the NBA's restart later this month, Denver is still without its best player in Nikola Jokic. The All-Star, who tested positive for coronavirus last month in his home country of Serbia, has been trying for some time to rejoin the team. 

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In a conference call with reporters on Sunday night, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone provided the latest on Jokic's status. 

"We're still kind of working around all the details of getting him here. So, no real update, but I know that his arrival should be happening relatively soon," Malone said. 

Some fans and media members have noted on social media that the Nuggets have not shared any pictures of certain players in Orlando. When asked specifically about starting shooting guard Gary Harris and rising star Michael Porter Jr. (who haven't been spotted), Malone wouldn't say if they were with the team. 

"I'm not going to get into the details of who's here and who's not. We have some players here and unfortunately because of the coronavirus pandemic we have some players that aren't here. Due to respect of their privacy I'm not going to confirm or deny anyone that's here or not," Malone said. 

Regardless, Malone is focused on what's ahead for his team. Denver is scheduled to play three scrimmages before eight regular season games and then the NBA playoffs. Who does and doesn't play will have a huge role in their potential success. 

"Our first mission is to get everyone here. That's priority No. 1 is to get our whole group down here so we can be a complete team and start building from there. Once that happens, we talked about this at the beginning of the season, we have a goal of winning an NBA championship," Malone said. 

If Denver wins a title, it will be in the Orlando "bubble" until October, which is obviously a long time away from family and friends. For Malone, the players becoming close off the court during this unique time is key. 

"Obviously I think chemistry on the court is great, (but) the best teams I've ever been around in my NBA career have been teams that were very close off the court and that carries over in between the lines. That closeness, that camaraderie and guys truly caring and loving and pushing and pulling for each other, hopefully we have a tremendous advantage in that area," Malone said. 

The Nuggets had a 43-22 record when play was suspended in March. Their first game that counts will be against the Miami Heat on Saturday, Aug. 1. 

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