Before the Nuggets took on the 76ers Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Bones Hyland made a quick pit stop. On Friday, He attended a special ceremony at St. Georges High School in Middleton, Deleware, where his jersey was being retired. Hyland played at St. Georges for four years and is the school’s all-time leading scorer at 1,957 career points.
The school holds a special place in Hyland’s heart. It’s the place that supported him after a house fire in 2018 claimed the lives of his 11-year-old brother and grandmother. Some of the teachers and coaches that made a lasting impact in Hyland’s life then are still in it to this day. Toward the end of his high school career, some encouraged Hyland to transfer schools in order to increase his exposure to college coaches and programs around the country, but Hyland stayed put at St. Georges. The impact that those teachers and coaches had on him was too meaningful to leave behind.
Hyland spoke with DNVR Monday about being back at St. Georges last weekend, the atmosphere in Philadelphia when the Nuggets faced the 76ers, and his reaction to his name appearing in trade rumors with the Feb. 9 trade deadline quickly deadline approaching.
What was it like being back at St. Georges?
It was an amazing moment for me. Forever grateful for that moment. I came there my freshman year and was there through my senior year. They’ve been there for me through the worst time of my life. Just for them to honor me with retiring my jersey, that’s big for me. That was bigger than getting drafted to me. I really think it was.
Wow. Bigger than being drafted?
That just hit. That just hit. Me being drafted, that hit home for me. But I’ve never felt like I felt when I got my jersey retired. I’ve never felt like that before.
What did you think of the atmosphere in Philadelphia for the 76ers game?
It definitely felt like a playoff game. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. Two good teams going at it. We didn’t come out with the win but it gave us a taste of playoff basketball.
What do you learn from it?
That playoff atmosphere, that’s the biggest thing I take away from it. I already know how rowdy it gets with playoff basketball, so just that. It feels good to have that this early and get that taste of playoff basketball.
Your name has been in some trade rumors lately. What do you think of that? How do you deal with those rumors?
I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t pay no mind to it. Whatever happens, happens. I know God’s got me. I don’t really care.
Have you talked with anyone in the front office about those rumors? Any of your teammates?
Naw, I just go day-to-day with it. Whatever happens, happens. I know I’m in God’s hands with whatever happens. I’m good regardless. I really don’t care.
Is seeing those rumors just part of the job when you’re in the NBA?
Yeah, it is. But it’s also about being comfortable with yourself. I’m not the type to overthink something. Or think that this decision is going to put me at the bottom of the world. I know I’ll be good regardless of what happens.
Hyland is the one Nuggets player who has seen his name consistently surface in trade rumors over the last couple of weeks. With the trade deadline just over one week away, expect that noise to increase. The Athletic and Mike Singer of the Denver Post both reported Monday that the Nuggets were shopping Hyland.
On the surface, trading Bones Hyland midway through his second season seems sudden. Just last year, he was instrumental in the only playoff game that Denver won in its first-round series vs. Golden State. He’s even had some monster performances over the last couple of months. Hyland tallied 29 points off the bench in one of the Nuggets’ marquee wins of the season, a one-point victory over Luka Doncic and the Mavericks where Denver was without Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. His 23 points on 8-11 shooting helped power the Nuggets past the Wizards in December.
But Hyland’s season has been bumpy too. He’s missed time with a COVID and non-COVID illness and has struggled to find a consistent rhythm game-to-game and week-to-week. Hyland has also been asked to share the backcourt on Denver’s second unit with Murray, a fit that’s been a bit awkward and at the present is still considered a work in progress more than halfway through the season.
The pairing has been a source of frustration for Hyland. Those two have not found the right chemistry together while sharing ball-handling responsibilities on the Nuggets’ second unit. Denver has been outscored by 72 points in the 301 minutes that Murray and Hyland have been on the floor together. The -12.2 Net Rating that Denver has with that backcourt pairing playing together is the worst of the 21 two-man combinations on the Nuggets that have played at least 300 minutes.
Still, my read on the Hyland situation is that a central reason the Nuggets would trade him now — while he still has two more years remaining on his rookie contract and much more room to grow into his ceiling — is that Denver doesn’t think it’s going to be able to trust him in the playoffs. Offensively and defensively. That’s really what it’s about for the Nuggets right now. Who is going to help them win a playoff game? Who do they trust is going to increase their chances to win a championship? I wonder if the Nuggets think that Hyland’s high-ceiling, low-floor process is too risky to rely on in a postseason environment. The Nuggets might lower the ceiling of their second unit by trading Hyland but could raise the floor.
If Denver trades Hyland for a first-round draft pick, which is one direction The Denver Post reported the Nuggets could go, I could see Bruce Brown becoming the backup point guard and rookie Christian Braun stepping into the minutes that Hyland was playing. That would be one way to ensure Braun gets on the floor and is in the rotation. If the Nuggets trade Hyland and get a player in return, I guarantee you it’s going to be someone in the mold of the player that general manager Calvin Booth wants to add to this roster: A big, long, athletic, plus-defender.
It feels like we’re heading toward a Hyland trade. Nine days remain until next Thursday’s deadline.