Michael Malone is entering the final year of his contract.
Coach Malone had an eventful 2017-18 season. He was fairly criticized for his rotations. Rotations that produced a seemingly worn-out Nuggets squad at important points in the second-half of the season. He was unfairly criticized for just about everything else. Beyond the season-over-season win total improvement, beyond the identification and development of the Nuggets truly special core, Malone has established something in Denver that’s been elusive.
Without Malone’s trust in Nikola Jokic, and subsequent trade of Jusuf Nurkic to Portland, would we know what Nikola brings to the table? He’s identified and developed all of the Nuggets young core.
When Isaiah Thomas was looking at the NBA landscape and his options for 2018-19, here’s what sold him on the Nuggets:
"“The thing that I wanted was the opportunity to play, the opportunity to show who I am again, show the world what I bring to the table. And, at the same time, just being able to have that opportunity. I didn’t care about the money. I didn’t care about none of that. I cared about being able to showcase my skills and be in a good environment. I don’t know too many players on this team, but from the outside, looking in it seems like they love playing with each other and they love being around each other and they had a good atmosphere and I wanted to be a part of that.”"
The other thing that resonated with Thomas was his relationship with Michael Malone. Thomas played for Malone in Sacramento and the word both men use when discussing the other is:
We may take issue with Malone’s rotations or his elusiveness with media. He has shortcomings with clock management. Those are things that will improve, the coach rising in ability alongside his young group. What can’t be manufactured is trust.
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In this gem of an offseason for Denver, what we’ve learned is that the players that will carry the Nuggets to the top of the Western Conference all talk about one thing that makes Denver hard to leave.
There are rumors that Torrey Craig took less money to stay in Denver. Will Barton’s game works anywhere, he could have gone to any team. He stayed in Colorado and had this to say via Twitter:
Malone has instilled a family feeling in Denver. That feeling is based on mutual trust. He’s taken chances on players and it has paid off. The players have stood by their coach and it’s created as exciting an atmosphere as has ever been in the Mile High city.
Because Denver missed the playoffs, Malone doesn’t enjoy quite the job security that he should but if this year stays on-track, look for Tim Connelly to lock the popular Malone up long-term.