Nuggets coach Michael Malone hinted that the team’s All-Star center could arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort as early as Saturday night.
“Nikola Jokic will be in the bubble very, very soon,” Malone said during a video conference call with reporters on Saturday. “I know that is a big topic of discussion, when’s he going to be here. He will be here very, very soon, and excited to see him.”
“No new arrivals today,” Malone later added when asked if any other Nuggets players who aren’t in Orlando have arrived yet. “But the midnight hour has not struck yet, and I’m expecting a big surprise from Europe to arrive fairly shortly.”
A source told ESPN that Jokic did not fly with the team when the Nuggets departed for Orlando on Tuesday due to travel issues. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported on June 23 that Jokic tested positive for the coronavirus while in Serbia and that his arrival to the United States would be delayed. A source said Jokic has since tested negative, something he would have to do twice before leaving Serbia and then twice again in the United States.
Upon arriving at Disney World, Jokic will have to quarantine for two days before participating in team activities.
“If he doesn’t have [the coronavirus], then that’s good,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said when asked what it will be like to have Jokic back with the team. “So I hope he doesn’t have it when he comes here, doesn’t contaminate the bubble. … It will be good to have all of our teammates [back].”
While Malone would not go into specifics, he said the team is waiting to see if other Nuggets in the travel party who did not fly with the team to Orlando will be arriving soon. The Nuggets closed their team facility before departing for Florida after two members of the team’s 35-member traveling party tested positive for the coronavirus, sources told Wojnarowski.
“We are awaiting positive news from back in Denver,” Malone said. “And I can’t wait for us to get whole and be here as a full family.”
Malone has repeatedly said Jokic is healthy and feeling good. The All-Star center turned heads when photos of his new slimmed-down physique went viral recently.
“So much is being made of Nikola’s weight loss,” Malone said. “I think there was a picture that spread like wildfire while he was home in Serbia. The funny thing for me is long before the league was suspended on March 11, Nikola had lost a ton of weight from the beginning of the season. … To his credit, he just continued to be disciplined and focused with his routine during the suspension and hiatus.”
“Nikola had committed himself to losing that weight,” Malone added. “From the beginning of the season until now, he has lost a considerable amount of weight, probably in the best shape of his life.”