If all goes well Wednesday morning, the Denver Nuggets expect to have Emmanuel Mudiay back on the court when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves later that evening at the Target Center.
Mudiay sprained his ankle prior to a December 11 matchup against the Timberwolves and has missed 12 games. During that span, the Nuggets have gone 3-9 and are looking to snap a six-game losing streak that has dropped their overall record to 12-23.
On Tuesday, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft went through his first practice with full contact before the Nuggets departed for Minnesota.
“I did full contact today. I probably went an hour and 10 minutes. It felt really good to be out there,” Mudiay said. “It’s looking like I will play right now. I’m going to see how I feel in the morning. It’s probably going to be a game-time decision. I talked to Coach about it and we said we’d see how it feels in the morning.”
Denver head coach Michael Malone said that Mudiay will need to go through shootaround without any setbacks before being cleared to play.
“What’s going to be the big deciding factor is when he wakes up tomorrow morning in Minneapolis, can he get through shootaround?” Malone explained. “This is the first time in 25 days that he’s done anything live. Hopefully he wakes up and he feels pretty well. He can go through shootaround and he can play tomorrow night. It’ll be good to have him back.”
While Malone believes it will be good for the Nuggets to have Mudiay back in the rotation, he cautioned that it will be on a limited basis.
“We’re in constant communication with our training staff just like we were with Jusuf Nurkic,” Malone said. “Fifteen minutes was his limit. We’re going to up that a little bit going into tomorrow night’s game. If Emmanuel is able to play, he’ll have a minutes restriction as well. You don’t want to fatigue his ankle and have any breakdown so it becomes a recurring issue. If we get him back, we’d like to have him be healthy and stay ready for the rest of the season.”
Mudiay admitted after practice on Tuesday that it’s been tough to sit on the bench while rehabbing his ankle, but he believes he has learned from the experience.
“It’s the worst. I don’t know what to do with myself, to be honest with you. Other than that, I’ve tried to just be the best cheerleader I can be,” Mudiay said. “I’ve learned a lot by sitting there and watching, seeing things from another perspective. I think I learned about pace. How do people change pace? How do people have their timing and when they’re going to take a shot and when they’re going to get their teammates involved at the right time and control the tempo? It’s really been helpful.”