After finding out that alongside Nikola Jokić, he has another superstar hiding in his team, Mike Malone was as happy as possible for an NBA coach. Jamal Murray was nuclear in Orlando's bubble for the Nuggets; he averaged 26.5 points (shooting 45.3% for three), 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and posting a true shooting percentage of 62,6%. The best part - Murray wasn't playing hero ball.
Denver was propelled to the Western Conference finals with a simple yet effective pick and roll game. The Nuggets were, and still are, a team that loves to get an extra pass to an open teammate, and selfishness isn't in their playbook. Everyone on the team is responsible, and their motion offense is an opportunity for every man to shine. When gossip involving iso-king, James Harden, and the Nuggets were thrown around, Malone stepped in.
“There are plenty of teams that are dysfunctional. That don't get along. That have star players that are fighting for the limelight. We don't have that. Again, that starts with Nikola being selfless. It's a part of our culture, and we have a lot of guys that live by that”
Mike Malone, Twitter
We all know Harden is a great player, but he represents everything that the Nuggets aren't. Their attentively shaped culture is what defines them. Malone firmly believes in team chemistry, and his statement is underlining his vision of basketball.
Perhaps Malone didn't want to put a stop only to Harden trade rumors. Remember when Michael Porter Jr. was complaining about his minutes last season? It seems like Malone also wanted to remind his players what this Denver team is all about.
The Nuggets are already a contender, and there's no need to reshape them into something new with a James Harden trade. But they'll have to get better if they want to replicate last season's result or even top it off in the end.