The Denver Nuggets are headed to Walt Disney World next week to finish what they started when the NBA season was halted on March 12th due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
"Excited on one hand to get back to playing basketball as a coach and a player," head coach Michael Malone said. "But there's so much more into it, you're going to be in a bubble, you're going to be isolated. You're not going to be active necessarily in your local community."
It's a return to play unlike any other for the Western Conference's No. 3 seed. A team that went 43-22 before the four-month layoff.
For those thinking @NBA season should have an (*) due to its uniqueness in nature, this is what .@Nuggets head coach Mike Malone had to say on the subject. As always, the goods. #NBA pic.twitter.com/DWpeDOxpv4— Dylan Scott (@DylanScottTV) July 1, 2020
"I'm not worried about what practice one is going to look like, I'm more worried about how can I keep our group together, how can we come back united and create that chemistry?" Malone said.
Denver has already been hit hard by the outbreak with Malone, star forward Nikola Jokic, and two additional members all testing positive for COVID-19.
However, Malone and the front office expect to be at full strength, with every player reporting to travel to Orlando Tuesday, including "Joker".
"He feels great, he feels fine, he's excited to get back," Malone said.
From COVID-19 to a call to action against racial injustice, playing basketball right now might seem somewhat trivial from the outside looking in.
"If someone made that decision to stay home, for whatever reason that was, I'd support it 100%," Malone said.
Despite that fact, the longtime coach believes a lot of good can come out of a return to the court during these difficult times.
"I think it's the right thing, I think most people do," Malone said. "Can we be a source of calm in terms of having sports back?"
The Nuggets will play 8 regular-season seeding games before the postseason and a hunt for their first NBA title.
Many players and coaches have alluded to the fact the season should feature an (*) due to the unique finish to the 2019-20 campaign.
For the Nuggets fifth-year head coach, he believes any team able to endure the rigors of the restart should have a special place in NBA history.
"If you're able to go into a bubble and be isolated from your friends and family, to have no home-court advantage, to have a league interruption of four months and you're able to spend 90 days and come out of there an NBA champion, I think this will be the toughest championship ever won," Malone said.