In-game coaching is only a part of the equation, which is evident by the way Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been waving his hands and trying to get his players attention since their Game 1 win. While he can’t call a timeout, huddle up his team, and scream at them to stay focused, he’s been trying to since the buzzer.
Don’t ask him to praise his group, because Malone is in full-ego tamping mode.
“I don’t think we played well in Game 1,” he said during a session with reporters Saturday.
Denver hasn’t done a damn thing
The Nuggets trailed for less than a minute, led from the 9-minute mark in the first quarter on, and had a 24-point lead in the third quarter. They objectively played well, and ended the Heat’s streak of series-opening wins.
“I told our players today: Don’t read the paper, don’t listen to the folks on the radio and TV saying that this series is over and that we’ve done something,” Malone said. “Because we haven’t done a damn thing.”
Considering Nikola Jokić doesn’t do shit but ball and eat at Benihana*, I don’t think there’s much to agonize over, coach, but who am I to argue with Malone’s transparency? (*A friend of my friend’s wife lives in Denver, and sent him a picture — that he screenshotted and shared in the group text — of the Big Serb keeping it one-humble during a visit to the middle-class eatery. That’s the kind of ear-to-the-pavement reporting we do here at Deadspin, and you can call bullshit all you want, but you know it tracks.)
It doesn’t take a journalist to see what the Nuggets’ skipper is doing, and as boring as coach speak is, it’s surprisingly necessary. Denver’s focus hasn’t wavered throughout this entire postseason, and Malone deserves a shoutout for that. They beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in five games, shrugged off Devin Booker and Kevin Durant’s onslaught to dismiss the Phoenix Suns in six, and did not fuck around at all with the Los Angeles Lakers during a sweep.
Malone’s ability to get and hold his squad’s attention has been more impressive than any adjustments he’s made. It helps that Jokić has a supercomputer for a brain and solves NBA defenses in real time, essentially reducing the coach’s responsibilities to a responsibility: Make sure the team doesn’t get distracted.
We’ll see how well-received that message is in Game 2 because Erik Spoelstra hasn’t even started throwing seven different kinds of smoke, Pat Riley has been wiping and reprogramming his army of the undrafted, and Jimmy Butler has to be properly insulted before he’s properly motivated.
Despite Denver’s core being in place for a couple of seasons, it’s still an unproven group, and Malone isn’t letting them forget that.
Aaron Judge is Superman if Superman gave interviews
The New York Yankees slugger has been en fuego since returning from injury, notching his 19th home run of 2023 on Saturday in a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and making a “catch of the year” candidate.
I don’t personally think that was as impressive as ESPN would lead you to believe. I mean, I know why people lost their minds, and it’s nice that Spike Lee is capable of smiling after another New York Knicks team kicked him in the balls again, but saying he ran through a wall is being extremely generous.
There’s something very Clark Kent-ish about Judge that I can’t quite pinpoint. Anytime he talks, I just want him to go back to saving New York’s season from a burning building. The guy is out here performing superhuman feats, and at the same time leaving us wondering what Lois Lane sees in him beyond the 6-foot-7 frame and aww-shucks smile.
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