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Nuggets coach Michael Malone said rookie Bones Hyland’s time is coming, possibly as early as this week.
The only time Hyland’s spent on the court came when he addressed the crowd prior to Denver’s home opener on Friday night. Other than that, after an outstanding preseason, Hyland has yet to make his NBA debut through two games.
But with two back-to-backs this week (Cleveland-Utah, Dallas-Minnesota), Malone said there’s a chance Hyland could play to spread out the workload among the team’s guards.
“I had a long talk with Bones before we played in Phoenix,” Malone said. “He had an outstanding preseason, he did nothing wrong. And he’s going to find his way on the court. He’s a guy that I anticipate will play at times. We have two back-to-backs coming up this week. Do we get him in one of these games knowing that we don’t want to overload some of our players?”
Hyland, like young forwards Zeke Nnaji and Bol Bol, has an uphill battle to get consistent minutes because of the nature of the Nuggets’ roster. Not only are the Nuggets deep, but their title window is now. Developing players – and allowing those players to grow through their mistakes – is secondary to winning games.
Despite the situation, Hyland’s attitude hasn’t changed. He’s been a positive light – as evidenced by his enthusiastic speech before Friday’s win over San Antonio – and his approach throughout practices.
“I love the fact that he’s staying engaged, he’s up off the bench, cheering his teammates on, maintaining a positive … and I hit him with that yesterday,” Malone said. “Like, ‘What you’re going through is not easy, but you’re handling it as well as anybody can be expected to. Keep doing that, keep learning, keep growing and keep working.’”
Bling, bling: The Nuggets’ coaches wanted to incentivize defensive effort, so they engineered a “Defensive Player of the Game” chain to award to one player after wins. After the season-opening win in Phoenix, coaches chose Will Barton as the inaugural winner. His defense on Devin Booker (12 points, 3-of-15 shooting) was instrumental in the victory.
It being such a new tradition, Malone forgot to give the chain to Barton at the arena. Instead, Malone wore it on the plane as he walked to the players’ section. Not knowing what the “D-P-O-G” chain stood for, players thought Malone had added a new piece of jewelry to his collection.
“’They’re like ‘OK, coach, I see you,’” Malone joked. “They thought I was really wearing that to wear it.’”
Barton was incredulous when asked if it was as nice as any of his own personal chains. After a lengthy debate over his jewelry vs. the “DPOG” necklace, Barton conceded it was “comparable” because of what it stood for.
Team coaches awarded it to Nikola Jokic following Friday’s win over San Antonio after he anchored the defense and contested 16 Spurs shots.
As goofy as the gimmick is, if it incentivizes team defense, Malone was all for it.
“I asked Michael Porter the other night, I said, ‘Mike, you think you’ll win this award?’ He smiled and he goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll think I’ll win it once, twice,’” Malone said. “… Hopefully we can get Michael Porter more than once or twice.”