Why Denver Nuggets’ Mike Malone is confident about reopening facility, resuming season with full roster

The Denver Nuggets closed their practice facility this week for a simple reason.

“We had multiple people in our traveling party test positive” for the coronavirus, Nuggets coach Mike Malone said Wednesday in a conference call.

Therefore, the Nuggets could not hold the first day of mandatory individual workouts as 21 other NBA teams did beginning on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Malone said “there is a chance we can open up the gym” before the team departs for Orlando on July 7.

That depends on when/if the Nuggets receive all negative tests for COVID-19 after initially testing on June 23. Nonetheless, Malone and Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly have had varying conversations with players in recent days about their pending participation in the resumed season beginning on July 30.

“There has been no indication that any of our players are not planning on attending Orlando,” Malone said. “With that said, if one of our players or a few of our players or coaches did not feel comfortable going, I would fully support them.”

Malone respectfully declined to name who currently has COVID-19. But Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has been one of them. Jokic has been in his native Serbia. NBA players who were overseas were scheduled to report to their team by June 15, but Jokic was granted an exception.

“He feels great. We’re working on getting him back here,” Malone said. “But the hope is he will be with us next Tuesday as we depart for Orlando the hope and expectation is Nikola Jokic will be with us as we head our plane down to Orlando. From everything I’ve heard and talking to him, he feels great and feels fine and is excited to get back.”

Malone said he feels the same way. He had felt symptoms on March 20, but he had not taken a test because of the state’s supply shortage.  He discovered around Memorial Day weekend that he had the virus after taking an antibody test. Afterwards, Malone joked with a CBS’ Denver affiliate, "I like to say that I got coronavirus and I kicked its butt.

“I was embarrassed. I made light of something that has devastated families,” said Malone, who has not seen his parents during quarantine. “It is definitely not something that should be taken lightly. It’s something I’m making jokes about how I kicked its butt. That was way off base. I feel bad about it. We as a family have dealt with it by staying together and relying on each other.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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