A peek into the first week of workouts at the Nuggets’ reopened practice facility

Harrison Wind Avatar
May 15, 2020

“Yeah Vlat Vlat!”

As the Denver Nuggets’ practice facility reopened for player workouts this week, some sense of normalcy returned to Vlatko Cancar’s basketball routine for the first time since the league closed down and suspended the season in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test on March 11.

That normalcy came in the form of Nuggets strength coaches shouting out familiar words of encouragement to Cancar as he lifted weights at Denver’s facility on Monday.


Along with Cancar, Jamal Murray and Will Barton worked out at the Nuggets’ facility this week too. The trio were also in the gym Monday and Wednesday and plan to work out at Pepsi Center on Friday as well, per a league source.

But safety restrictions put in by the league make for a far from normal workout environment. Players receive temperature checks before workouts and must wear a mask at all times other than when they’re on the court or in the weight room. Players also can’t use the locker room and have their own designated basketballs to use.

Head coach Michael Malone, front row assistant coaches and front office personnel are not allowed back at the facility yet, so player workouts this week have been run by assistant coach John Beckett and director of player development Ognjen Stojakovic. Nuggets strength and conditioning coaches Felipe Eichenberger and Claus Antunes de Souza have been at the facility as well.

Everything that a player uses during a workout has to be thoroughly cleaned and only one coach and one player are allowed per hoop during workouts. All coaches must wear gloves, facemasks, and remain at least 12 feet away from players at all times too.

A restricted workout environment means that players can run through shooting and individual defensive drills, and work on their 1-on-1 game but not much else.

The restrictions Nuggets players and other players across the league have to work with at newly opened team facilities is partly why Denver’s entire roster didn’t immediately return to town upon the news that Pepsi Center’s practice court was reopening. Many Nuggets players are stationed around the country, either in their home town or another locale, and have access to gyms where they can workout without restrictions.

Some players came through Denver this week but didn’t work out at the team’s facility, instead opting for a private gym that they have access to.

Along with Denver, Miami, Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Indiana, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah and Orlando have also opened their practice facility for player workouts. The Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Saturday to open their facility.

Although the league hopes to finish the season at some point, the opening of practice facilities isn’t a sign that the NBA is definitely moving forward and planning to play out the rest of the 2019-20 schedule. Initially, the league made the move to open facilities in states that have eased their stay-at-home orders to reportedly prevent players from flocking to Georgia or another state where those order has been eased so that they could simply get in a gym.

They don’t present the most ideal workout circumstances currently, but NBA practice facilities that are open provide players with as safe of an environment as possible. The league believes it will have 22 of its 30 facilities open by Monday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

However, there does seem to be positive momentum building towards a return to play based on Tuesday’s Board of Governor’s call with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported earlier this week that Silver told the Board of Governors that he’s aiming for a 2-to-4 week timetable to make a decision about whether to resume the season.

While a return to play still seems to be a ways off, seeing some familiar faces at their regular practice facility is at least a return to some sense of normalcy for players.


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