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September 26, 2020

Michael Malone

Denver Nuggets

Game 5: Postgame

Los Angeles Lakers - 117, Denver Nuggets - 107

Q. I know that this one stings, but how proud are you of this team? I know that you couldn't really give big picture perspective, but how proud are you of the moment?

MICHAEL MALONE: Oh, so proud. What more could you ask from a group? What more commitment, sacrifice, just everything the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we have made, the adversity that we faced and never ran from, embraced it, owned it at times. So, from a pride perspective, I couldn't be more proud. My message to our guys is: Remember this feeling. Last year, Game 7 against Portland, use that as motivation. I think all great teams and champions have to go through the pains of losing. And nothing is handed to you in this business. And we're making steps. We're moving in the right direction with a great group of guys. I wouldn't want to be with any other group. I love our team. I really do. So proud, came up a little short, obviously. Give a lot of credit to the Lakers, a ton of credit. Frank Vogel and their staff did an amazing job, all their players. And my relationship with LeBron, he took over like great players take over in games like this. So, you tip your cap. You give them credit. And we use this as motivation to come back even better and not be satisfied with making the Western Conference Finals. Our goal still remains to win a championship.

Q. With all that being said, what encourages you most about what this team did and where this team can go from here?

MICHAEL MALONE: What encourages me most is how young we are. What encourages me most is the fact that we have drafted and built this team from an organic method. We have young players that are growing up and continue to amaze. And what also encourages me is when you can stare at defeat and elimination six straight games and find a way to advance. The only team in history to ever do that. And this matchup, they beat us 4-1. They're a really good team. They're in the NBA Finals for a reason. But I think this series was a hell of a lot closer than the 4-1 would indicate. No silver lining, but I'm encouraged by the growth, maturity, and development of all of our players. And our young guys are only going to get better, which is really exciting if you're a Denver Nuggets fan.

Q. LeBron's going to his 10th NBA Finals. As somebody who has worked in the league and had success, can you just put in perspective how incredible that is?

MICHAEL MALONE: Yeah, it is incredible. And when you just step back and look and marvel at what LeBron is doing at this stage of his career, how he continues to find ways to improve and get better and take whatever team he's on to new heights, that defines his greatness. 10th Finals appearance. I know everybody wants to get caught up in the whole argument, the greatest of all time. That is an unwinnable debate. LeBron is a great player and he's one of the greatest to ever do it and his resume speaks for itself. And like I mentioned earlier, in a Game 5, closeout game, when the game was hanging in the balance, who took over? The best player on the floor. And that's what you've come to expect from him.

Q. Can you contextualize what this is? I mean, you've been here 80 something days now in a bubble playing basketball. As you look back on it and think of maybe the trepidation or fear or hesitancy in coming down here, what's it been like just from the perspective of playing bubble basketball in the Western Conference Finals?

MICHAEL MALONE: Yeah, it's a do-your-job mentality. I think when we got word that the league was going to resume, there was a lot excitement, before we came down here, definitely some question marks. I just ran into Kiki [VanDeWeghe] and Byron Spruell, Mark Tatum and gave them a shout out because this, they pulled it off. This has been a great experiment in bubble basketball, if you will. Were there concerns? Were there uncertainties at the beginning? Sure. I think everybody had that because it was the unknown. This has never been done before. But once you got into your routine, it was just like being at basketball camp. You're in your dorm. You wake up. You do your job. And for us, it was a little different because we didn't have everybody with us getting healthy, getting guys down here. But I think our guys handled this bubble atmosphere and environment as well as you could ask anybody to. I think that's one of the reasons we were able to survive and advance as far as we did because we didn't fight it. We embraced it, and we accepted it, and we just went along with it.

Q. Virtually at every media availability you showed up in that T-shirt or a similar one, and one of the reasons guys chose to continue to play here is because the platform was bigger, it was louder. You're losing that now, so what's next in terms of what you would like to see here?

MICHAEL MALONE: Yeah, obviously, I've worn this shirt, as you mentioned, quite a bit. And I wear this for Elijah McClain's parents, Sheneen McClain, Lawayne Mosley, all of his family, all of his loved ones. And as you mentioned, just because we're done here, now we go back to our respective market in our cities. That's where the fight has to continue, and getting involved as much as possible. I think about this case, and the reason I wear this shirt is because, no disrespect to the countless others who have been killed, but this is in our backyard, and I feel a responsibility to bring light to it because I don't think Elijah McClain's name is mentioned enough. I don't think enough people are talking about it. At the end of the day, what we want, the shirt says it all, we want justice. He was a 23-year-old man walking back from the store with headphones on with an iced tea in his bag and somebody called the cops because he was acting suspicious. Being black isn't suspicious. So, all these types of things are just -- we have had enough. Everybody's had enough. So, if I can wear a shirt, if I can speak on it to help to bring about a little bit of change, that's the least I could do.

Q. I always feel a little awkward asking a basketball question after such a poignant question.

MICHAEL MALONE: No, it's all good.

Q. I know we're interested in the aftermath of a close five-game series, but what were the subtle differences that allowed the Lakers to win the four games? And then what will you guys do to address next season and what you think you need to do to get better?

MICHAEL MALONE: Yeah, the subtleties were a lot of the things that we felt were going to be the key themes, if you will, coming into this series, the transition defense, the rebounding, the paint. And then you have a guy, as was brought up before, LeBron, who has been here and done that and going to his 10th Finals. This is the second time our franchise has ever made it to the Western Conference Finals and then we're playing against a guy who this is routine for him. So, we take some solace in that. And my challenge to our group is that we'll be back. And we advanced and we improved upon last year. And our goal is now to get to the NBA Finals and win a championship ultimately.

And as far as this off-season and what we can do, I think that will come in a few weeks, reflect on this, take a deep dive into who we are, what areas do we think we maybe have to improve upon, and we'll address those. And those are open and honest conversations that I continue to have with Tim Connelly, with Josh and Stan Kroenke, to find out how we can become an even better team, to not be satisfied with making the journey that we just finished. And the challenge continues. We still have a ways to go.

Q. First off, thanks for being so gracious with your time this year. Much appreciated.

MICHAEL MALONE: You're welcome.

Q. Secondly, going on this playoff run, going to the Western Conference Finals with these guys as young as they are, even on the heels of having 14 playoff games last year, just what's that experience going to do for this young group?

MICHAEL MALONE: Yeah, I think I'm just basing it off of what happened from last year and this season. I think one of the greatest challenges coming into this year was the expectations that everybody had for us. Going into this season after what we showed in the playoffs, there were high expectations on a very young team. How do you handle those expectations? I think next season, after we have shown what we can do, the expectations will probably be even higher. So how do you handle those expectations, how do you meet the pressure of that, while also finding ways to remember when we had our best success, when we played our best basketball, we played free, we played for each other, we played with joy. I mean, we were down 3-1 and I think a big reason we came back twice from being in a 3-1 deficit was because we still found a way to have joy and fun on the court. We didn't play with pressure, we didn't play like our lives were dependent upon it. If we did that, we wouldn't have advanced against Utah or the Clippers. So it's going to be an interesting off-season. Like I said, we'll talk as a staff and front office and ownership. But I love the core group that we have. I think we have something special brewing. And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing and I'm just really blessed and proud to be a small part of that.

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