Home / Fire Nuggets coach Michael Malone? What, are you excessive? He deserves kudos, not a pink slip.

Fire Nuggets coach Michael Malone? What, are you excessive? He deserves kudos, not a pink slip.

It is legal in Colorado to smoke marijuana. But it’s strictly forbidden to applaud Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

The Nuggets beat Indiana 107-104 Tuesday, and their improbable playoff dream is alive. In the final week of the regular season, there’s no pressure on Denver. This is fun.

“We can’t play like it’s life and death, because we’re going to die a lot,” Malone said. “The way we play, how free we play, we’re going to turn the ball over at times, we’re young. I want our guys to play free, to enjoy and embrace the moment and what we’re involved in right now. I think a lot of other teams are playing tight. … Not us.”

That’s a coach of a team with no playoff pedigree, striking the perfect tone, in the spirit of Nuggets legend Doug Moe and his lovable no-hopers.

If I stand up and give kudos to Malone, will I get arrested?

Way back in November when forward Paul Millsap underwent wrist surgery that would require 44 games to heal, tears were shed for the $30 million man and dirt was thrown on Denver’s chances to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Yet everything and anything that has gone wrong in this season has been placed at the feet of Malone, whose biggest coaching sin is that his name isn’t George Karl.

OK, nobody confuses Malone for Gregg Popovich. His use (and misuse) of timeouts can be head-scratching. The coach’s playing rotation at times seems to be pulled out of his hat. The breakdown of his relationship with Jusuf Nurkic a year ago forced Denver to trade a talented young center. Despite Malone’s reputation as a defensive strategist, there are too many nights when the Nuggets can’t stop anybody from scoring.

But fire him? No, no, no. One thousand times no.

During the one-and-done era of college basketball, the primary job for an NBA coach is often to serve as a teacher. Are Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray better players than at the outset of this season? Without a doubt. So Malone and his staff deserve high marks for player development.

If your bottom-line judgment of a coach begins and ends with victories and defeats, then Denver’s 17-10 record since February 1 is testimony to Malone’s ability to keep the Nuggets hanging tough while Millsap rehabbed his wrist. What’s more, Malone has exhibited a stubborn refusal to surrender when starting guard Gary Harris went down with a knee injury during the most critical part of the regular season.

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