Mike Malone Rumors
Jusuf Nurkić struggled to find his form upon his return, and he was bothered by his coach’s decision to bring him off the bench late in 2015-16. “Mike Malone came to me with all this sweet talk, saying that I was going to be fine and that he couldn’t wait to see me back,” Nurkić recalled. “If you like somebody else, play them. But don’t come to my home and say that I’m going to be the starting center and then play someone else.” Although the Nuggets experimented with starting the 6’10” Jokić and Nurkić together, that hardly seemed like a winning long-term combination with small ball sweeping the league. Reading the tea leaves, Nurkić went to Connelly and requested a trade in April 2016.
Denver tried to mend fences, dispatching Malone for a summer meet-up in Bosnia. Nurkić, who had battled weight and conditioning issues for years, spent the offseason losing weight and following Denver’s training protocol. After assessing his progress, the Nuggets promised Nurkić that he would get the chance to open the 2016-17 season as a starter. On opening night, Nurkić realized there was a catch. “In the first game, I only played three quarters,” Nurkić said. “I had 23 points and 9 rebounds. I’m playing a good game, we’re winning and I’m not playing in the fourth quarter? From that point, I could kind of see that something was wrong.”