MUDIAY EARNS PLAYING TIME – AND IS MAKING THE MOST OF IT
The Nuggets appeared to be in for a long night Monday when they fell behind by 13 points early at Houston.
Enter Emmanuel Mudiay. The second-year point guard, demoted to third string after the all-star break, scored eight points in less than five minutes to begin the second quarter, keying a 17-7 run that helped the Nuggets grab the lead.
Mudiay saw the court Monday night, in part, because guards Jameer Nelson and Gary Harris had each played 39 minutes two nights earlier in Denver, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t want to put the same workload on those starters for the second straight game.
But it also was an opportunity that Mudiay earned, according to his coach.
“He has been working extremely hard,” Malone said. “He hasn’t felt sorry for himself. He’s put a lot of extra time in working on his game, and so I wanted to reward him.”
Still, as the Nuggets begin to get healthy — Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur returned Wednesday night after missing four games — more stretches on the court like Monday’s are not guaranteed for Mudiay.
“If it fits,” Malone said when asked whether Mudiay will continue to see significant minutes. “When we’re healthy, it becomes harder. But if it presents itself, … I have no hesitation to put Emmanuel out there. I know he’s staying ready. That’s why I’m not surprised at the play he had at Houston.”
Faried’s role the same.
Kenneth Faried has averaged a little more than 16 minutes in his two games since returning from a three-week absence due to a back injury.
The Nuggets have no plan to increase the forward’s workload anytime soon. The medical staff has recommended his playing time be limited to roughly 20 minutes per game, for now, in an effort to prevent setbacks with the injury.
“Right now I’m comfortable with Nikola (Jokic) and Mason (Plumlee) in the starting lineup,” Malone said. “They’ve shown they have a pretty good connection on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. The great thing is Kenneth can play with either of those bigs, as well. We want to be smart about how many minutes we play him.”