The Denver Nuggets will travel to the Oracle Arena in Oakland to take on defending champion Golden State Warriors. This will be the first time this season that the team will be with Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian center will make his season debut after missing two months because of an injured knee.
The 21-year-old player showed some promise during his rookie year in 2014, delivering 6.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in an average of 17.8 minutes per game. However, he experienced issues with foul trouble as he committed almost seven fouls per 36 minutes.
Nurkic missed the entire season while recovering from a torn left patellar tendon. He had surgery on the affected knee in May. He was then cleared to practice on December 17.
According to the Denver Post, the final hurdle in the process of rehabbing a patellar tendon tear was getting through an entire practice. Nurkic did practice, and he, as well as coach Michael Malone, were satisfied with what they saw.
"He had a good practice. Today was a big day for him. Seeing him out here, seeing him up-and-down, he'll definitely play (against Golden State). We'll monitor his minutes, make sure we don't overload him too much on his first game back. But it will be good to see him out there and get him back in the rotation," Malone said.
Nurkic will be minutes-restricted and likely coming off the bench so it would be interesting to see how the Nuggets will incorporate him back into the fold.
The 6 ft 11 in.-tall Center is not the only returning player. The upcoming game versus the Warriors will also mark the return of Danilo Gallinari after being sidelined for more than a week due to an ankle sprain. Gallinari has not played since December 20 and, similar to Nurkic, went through all of Friday's practice. "Gallo" will be back in the starting lineup after missing six games.
"(He's) an attacking player. A 'small' player that we can put in the post. He's one of our higher-volume post-up players. He's a guy that gets us to the foul line. He's a guy that generates free-throw attempts. He drives," Malone responded when asked about Gallinari's skills.
The Warriors, on the other hand, will likely see the return of their superstar guard Stephen Curry, who had been out in the last two games because of a sore calf muscle.
Aside from Gallinari, Nikola Jokic is confirmed to get the start at center against the Warriors on Saturday. The Serbian player had been listed on the team's recent injury report with right knee soreness.
However, Jokic is only expected to play for about 15-20 minutes, so it seems likely that centers Joffrey Lauvergne or J.J. Hickson could soak up more minutes. Nikola Jokic averages 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game.