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"There's no pressure": Michael Malone sets G League expectations for Bol Bol

Harrison Wind Avatar
November 16, 2019

The Nuggets knew when they traded into the second round to select Bol Bol that the 7-foot-2 center was going to be a long-term play. Denver didn’t need him to contribute immediately with most of its rotation from last year’s 54-win team set to return and Bol was coming off foot surgery that ended his freshman season at Oregon early.

There wasn’t going to be any pressure on Bol to crack the Nuggets’ rotation this season or even get back to the level he was playing last year in college where he averaged 21 points and 9.6 rebounds across nine games. That’s the same message Michael Malone relayed to rookie before he was set to make his G League debut.

“I made sure I talked to him before he went down, go down there and relax. There’s no pressure,” Malone said. “We’re not asking you to go down there and average a triple-double. Play your game, get comfortable, be aggressive, play with confidence. I’m sure there were nerves but I think now that he has that first game was under his belt things will get easier for him.”

The Nuggets assigned Bol, who’s signed to a two-way contract which allows him to spend 45 days with Denver this season, to the G League’s Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls affiliate last week. He made his debut Friday in the Bulls’ 111-97 win over the Canton Charge and finished with eight points (4-9 FGs), nine rebounds and four blocks in 17 minutes off the bench.

It was Bol’s first live game action in 11 months, but the 20-year-old showed why he was regarded as such a tantalizing prospect throughout his high school and brief college career. Bol showed off the touch around the rim that scouts have raved about and knocked down a foul-line jumper. Defensively, he altered countless shots around the rim, but what continued to stand out was how well Bol moves particularly on that end of the floor for someone his size. Concerns about his foot injury and the potential long-term effects from it partly sunk Bol’s draft stock in May, but the rookie felt fine after his first game.

Bol needs game reps, which he won’t get with the Nuggets this season, so expect him to spend much of his rookie year in the G League. There, he’ll be trying to find his rhythm and game while going up against players looking to make a name for themselves and fighting for their NBA and professional lives.

“Bol is God gifted. He’s talented, can dribble, shoot it, hell of a player,” said Monte Morris who spent most of his rookie season in the G League. “I expect him to do down there and kill it. Double-double easy, almost triple-double. I mean he’s skilled. He’s just got to know everybody’s coming for his head. He’s got a big name and they’re going to come at you hard. You’ve just got to do what you do. Don’t overthink it, just play basketball.”

With Windy City, Bol is playing alongside the Nuggets’ other two-way player P.J. Dozier, who’s averaging 15.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 10.3 assists across the three games he’s appeared in. Rookie Vlatko Cancar has played two games for the Erie BayHawks and is averaging 10 points and four rebounds. Cancar fouled out in just 19 minutes for Erie Friday.

“Vlatko’s got to stop fouling,” Malone said. But he did some good things. P.J., obviously he’s been playing at a high level in the G League for a while now.”

Malone briefed his team in Denver on all of their performances and also stressed that he wants his players to maintain contact with Bol, Dozier and Cancar while they’re in the G League.

It was a small victory for the Nuggets just getting Bol on the court. Now Denver will wait to see how he improves as the G league season progresses.

“He held his own,” Malone said. “He did a really good job and I think the more games he plays he’s only going to get more and more comfortable.”

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