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Nuggets coach Mike Malone remembers his beginning with Knicks

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone yells in

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone yells in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP/Andy Clayton-King

Mike Malone was just starting out, not quite 30 years old and on an NBA staff for the first time as an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy, when the staff headed to Westchester to begin practices for the Boston Summer League under the stewardship of another assistant coach — Tom Thibodeau.

"I do laugh when I think about the summer league practices up in White Plains at the Westchester Civic Center," said Malone, now the head coach of the Nuggets, who faced the Knicks on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. "We had practice for our summer league up in Boston and I remember [assistant coach] Don Chaney would have ice bags on after practice because Thibs’ summer league practices were like five hours long. That was his chance to be a head coach way back then as an assistant for Jeff Van Gundy and he took it like it was a real opportunity, which is what you should do. Just a tremendous work ethic, attention to detail and passion for the game I think has allowed Tom to be a great coach in this league for many years."

Malone, whose father, Brendan Malone, was a long-time NBA assistant coach and scout, credits that time working alongside Thibodeau and on a stellar staff for putting him where he is now.

"I go back into when I first got into the NBA here with the Knicks," he said. "Jeff Van Gundy was the head coach. And I think back upon that time because I think of what a tremendous coaching staff I had the opportunity to learn from. Not only Jeff Van Gundy, but Don Chaney, former coach of the year with the Houston Rockets, former great player obviously in the NBA; Tom Thibodeau, Steve Clifford. I was really fortunate to be around a lot of coaches that looked out for me and taught me the ropes as I was going along. I’d been around the game a ton from my father, but being on that staff was tremendous . . . [What] always impressed me with Thibs was his work ethic, obviously, and his passion for the game, the details.''

Injuries lingering

Thibodeau said Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee) likely will be evaluated again in about a week. Obi Toppin (strained right calf) has not yet been cleared for contact and continues to work on conditioning and drills.

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