Bol Bol’s claim began with an admission.
Entering his third season and having barely made a dent with the Nuggets, Bol didn’t wallow in the fact that he was buried on the depth map. He didn’t bemoan the lack of chances chef Michael Malone had given him over the past two seasons. Instead, starting with the team’s training camp in San Diego, the unicorn-like prospect who had gotten stuck in those traps before acknowledging his shortcomings.
After being praised for his attitude and work ethic to start camp, Bol admitted he didn’t help himself when he arrived in the NBA in 2019.
âI feel like it’s something I could have done even though it’s my third year,â Bol said. “Glad to find out now, sooner rather than later.”
Bol’s potential – on display throughout the early part of the preseason in games against the Clippers and Warriors – is still as enticing as it was when the Nuggets drafted the 7-foot-3 center. . There’s shot blocking (not to mention the countless modified shots), long limb rebounds, and ball skills.
Halfway through the fourth quarter against the Clippers, Bol circled a deflection and, rather than heading towards one of his two guards, galloped to the ground, planted at the 3-point line, dribbled behind his back, stopped, then slid to the hoop where he kissed the ball from the back panel to a bucket. Most of the NBA’s 7-footers couldn’t complete half of the spellbinding streak. And yet, it’s in Bol’s arsenal, waiting to be released.
âThe great thing for Bol is that for most of his minutes he played really hard and competed,â said Malone. âIt’s a starting point for me.
Bol finished with 11 points, five rebounds and five blocks in the Nuggets’ opener of the preseason. After leading the team from a distance in blocks, Malone said he believed Bol could have run over a few more. Two nights later in San Francisco, Bol counted two more blocks.
According to Malone, the Nuggets were last in the NBA last season in terms of disputed shots. That leaves one wondering if Bol could have a significant impact on a team that a) lacked a traditional save center and b) had the worst rim protection in the league last season.
The only way to answer that question is whether Bol’s effort over the past two weeks represents lasting change or amounts to an echo on the radar. When asked how difficult it is to maintain that level of commitment when the minutes and opportunities to play weren’t there, Bol said what the organization had wanted to hear for two seasons.
âIt’s very difficult but at the end of the day we are professionals,â said Bol.
Typically laid back and shy, the teammates noticed an increase in Bol’s energy. Rather than going through drills, he apparently went hard throughout the team’s training settings. And according to Bol, he’s asking a lot more questions than before.
Who is responsible for checking out this version of Bol?
âIt takes a village,â said Malone. âThe great thing about our organization is from the front office, to the coaches and teammates, I think there was a consistent message to Bol that ‘No one ever questions your talent, your abilities, but this what has been questionable at times is your maybe your work ethic, your commitment, your discipline. They are controllable. Check the controllable. He can’t control if he’s going to play every night, but he can control all the other things.
Two teammates in particular deserve the credit. One is veteran JaMychal Green, who has been firmly in Bol’s camp since arriving in Denver before last season. Having recognized his rare talent, Green seems to have taken it upon himself to cultivate it.
âEveryone is in my ear, but I love the way he does it,â Bol said. âIt gets straight to the point, like no wrapping, none of that. He just tells me.
The other is a jovial newcomer who can’t help himself.
âEver since I came to Bol (in the Summer League) I knew he was the kind of guy who liked to stay in his shell for a bit, and the personality that I have, I can get anyone out of that. shell, “said Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland, himself just 21 years old. âAnd I know he’s a very talented kid, he just needs love and someone who can bring that spirit and that joy around him.â¦ For me, I like to see everyone win and everybody eat. I’m just like, ‘Let me see what I can do to try to bring him with him.’ “
Boiling and crisp, Bones has no recipe.
âI feel like when he sees me he instantly smiles,â Hyland said. “I just had this contagious energy where it’s like everyone sees me, it’s like, ‘OK, Bones is here.'”
The results, although early, gave Bol more committed and who seems to have recognized the urgency of the moment.
âAt this point I have to figure out how to get on the pitch, all that’s left is to click on me now,â he said.
The most pressing question will be answered in two short weeks, when the Nuggets’ season officially opens. Despite his improved game, there is nothing guaranteed about Bol’s playing time. He fights against the Greens (JaMychal and Jeff) for a few minutes, while facing his compatriot Zeke Nnaji in the first zone.
âCan you rise above ‘Woe to me’ and say ‘OK, for the sake of the team,’â said Malone. “â¦ I’ll be curious to see how Bol, when it happens, if it happens, handles it.” That’s his challenge, man. Manage adversity. (The stuff) doesn’t always work out your way. Just be tough and find a way to fight through it. “
The process, emanating from Hyland and Green’s good / bad cop routine, revealed a certain level of joy to Bol who was noticeably absent over the past two seasons.
âIt’s a lot of fun for me because I see the progress and everything I’ve learned over the past two years just by looking and observing and now that I’m finally putting it all together,â he said. . âI love basketball so it’s a lot of fun for me. I am more positive and I try to play everything.