Nuggets coach Michael Malone: We can’t check out before All-Star break

SAN FRANCISCO — Nuggets coach Michael Malone channeled his best Hubie Brown on Wednesday morning at Golden State’s Chase Center.

As the Nuggets were wrapping up shootaround, Malone reminded them that the All-Star break begins Thursday, not Wednesday, when his team will take on the second-seeded Warriors.

“Where is everybody at mentally? My challenge to them at the end was, ‘Be present, be in the moment, let’s concentrate and focus on the task at hand,’” Malone said.

Brown, who Malone’s father worked for, used to say that the last five games before the All-Star break and the first five after offered the best chance to steal wins. To Denver’s credit, the Nuggets were 4-1 in their last five games entering Wednesday night.

And if the Nuggets weren’t mentally engaged, Malone said, the Warriors have the potential to make that painfully apparent.

“I can imagine, in this building, against that opponent, if we’re not, we’ll see really early because we’ll be down by 20 before you blink,” he said.

Monte Morris’ return to the lineup should help. Morris missed the last three games prior to Wednesday night due to concussion protocol and was expected to play against the Warriors. Whether that means coming off the bench or replacing Bones Hyland in the starting lineup wasn’t clear. But Morris’ steady hand is one more valuable piece as the Nuggets try to challenge Dallas and potentially, Utah, in the Western Conference standings.

As for his All-Star plans, Malone didn’t want to divulge much.

“I don’t like to tell people where I’m going because I don’t trust anybody in this world,” he said. “I’m from New York, man.”

He did say it would include plenty of family time, including watching his two daughters play volleyball.

And if he happened to stumble on a couple of breweries in the meantime, as he suggested, no one would fault him.

No timeframe on Murray: Malone offered a minor update on Jamal Murray when he was asked about his rehab Wednesday morning. Back in the same building where Murray tore his ACL last April, Malone said Murray will come back when he’s ready, which is the same refrain he’s said for months.

“Obviously, he’s not close to that right now, but coming out of the break, we have 24 games to go,” he said.

Malone has offered cautionary updates recently, in large part, because he’s trying to decrease the pressure on Murray’s potential return this season. The last thing he’s going to do is rush Murray back to the court.

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