As Will Barton watched Nuggets coaching camp in San Diego from a medical desk, slowed by a left ankle damage, he had one thought: “Right here we (freaking) go.”
Who might fault Barton after quite a few accidents the previous few seasons?
However an MRI on his ankle revealed no severe harm, and days later, Barton was strolling once more. From Barton’s perspective, having handled core surgical procedure, a debilitating knee problem and a hamstring damage all within the final three seasons, he was relieved. All of the work he’d carried out to get himself into form wouldn’t be misplaced to an prolonged damage.
Barton is ready to make his preseason debut on Wednesday in Oklahoma Metropolis, the primary recreation that can characteristic all the Nuggets’ presumed opening-night starters. Barton mentioned he’s felt good in practices and scrimmages.
On condition that he’s missed the primary three video games, Nuggets coach Michael Malone floated the concept that he might be obtainable for Thursday’s back-to-back, additionally in opposition to the Thunder.
Malone mentioned he might sense Barton’s anticipation and has greater than as soon as referred to the “pop,” which he’s seen from him this summer season. Malone flashed again to a telling summer season exercise in Las Vegas with P.J. Dozier and Monte Morris taking part in and Malone watching.
“Will is doing the drills and attending to the basket and dunking, it’s wanting straightforward,” Malone recounted. “You possibly can see the smile on his face, and he’s speaking, ‘I obtained that pop again, coach!’ After which that night time, the league flagged him for having COVID. So Will sends me a textual content, ‘They’re attempting to maintain me down, coach. The streets are speaking, they’re attempting to maintain me down.’ And he didn’t have COVID. It was a false constructive.”
However since that point, Malone mentioned he’s seen extra juice in Barton’s recreation – one thing which hadn’t been there as he recovered from his numerous illnesses.
“After I say he’s obtained pop, I see a man that is ready to get to locations on the ground that lots of guys on our workforce can’t,” Malone mentioned. “Whether or not that’s breaking down a protection, attending to the basket, ending. On his leap shot, he’s leaving the ground. He simply seems like a a lot more healthy, explosive Will Barton that we noticed most likely two years in the past.”
Barton spent final summer season rehabbing a balky knee that pressured an early exit from the “Bubble” in Orlando. There was no inside enchancment in his recreation; the work was strictly on his physique.
“I got here into the season in a approach I’ve by no means got here in earlier than, by no means touching a basketball, not lifting weights, not conditioning,” he mentioned. “It was, ‘Attempt to get your physique proper, after which we’ll work all the pieces out via the season.’”
However after returning to the Nuggets, this offseason was way more conventional for Barton. He mentioned he honed a large number of areas, together with his playmaking, catch-and-shoot and attacking off the dribble. It’s his versatility inside a deep offense that makes him so priceless to the Nuggets.
“So this offseason, being wholesome, understanding, lifting, I obtained my legs again underneath me, I obtained my pop,” he mentioned.
Nothing settled: Whereas Malone was desperate to see Barton again alongside the starters, Wednesday’s recreation can also be about assessing Denver’s bench.
Malone mentioned he deliberate to tinker with the second unit and check out completely different groupings, together with probably staggering Michael Porter Jr. with that group. However he couldn’t disguise his affinity for 2 preseason standouts.
“I believe it’s simple,” Malone mentioned. “I believe Bones Hyland has been excellent within the preseason. I believe P.J. Dozier’s been excellent within the preseason. These guys are in a very great spot.”