Basketball fans were treated to their first taste of real competition in nearly 150 days when the 22 NBA teams in the league’s ‘bubble’ in Florida played their first competitive scrimmages on Thursday (AEST).
While some players were a little rusty, Denver Nuggets rookie Bol Bol, the son of NBA cult figure Manute Bol, made it clear he wasn’t there to mess around with an eye catching display that sent NBA Twitter into meltdown.
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Bol hadn’t played for the Nuggets prior to the Orlando scrimmages thanks to a foot injury he suffered before he was drafted with the 44th pick in the 2019 draft, but the disrupted season gave the slender 218cm big ample time to recover.
The Nuggets turned heads even before Bol took to the court against the Washington Wizards, naming an absurdly large starting lineup featuring All-Star centre Nikola Jokic at point guard, Bol at small forward, and no other player smaller than 200cm (6’7).
The unconventional lineup suited Bol just fine, whose own somewhat unconventional style netted him a 16 point, 10 rebound double-double on debut, capped by a highlight play in which he blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, brought the ball up the floor and hit a pull-up three pointer.
The highlight block was one of six the enormous rookie racked up, his 234cm wingspan helping the 20-year-old cover an incredible amount of ground at the rim.
Fans were already in overdrive after Bol’s performance, but hilarity ensued when it was revealed Bol had been scheduled for a random drug test after the 89-83 win over the Wizards.
Nuggets coach praises Bol Bol after strong NBA scrimmage
Denver coach Mike Malone was thrilled to see his rookie thrive in such an unconventional line-up, but was quick to stress that he didn’t want to put undue pressure on the young gun.
“Being around him every day, him opening up, you can see his personality getting more comfortable, more confident,” Malone said in his post-game media availability.
“He’s played very well. Let’s not forget. He’s still, in essence, a rookie. Let’s not put the expectations way up there. Let’s let him grow and develop.
“But he’s shown me that he has a tremendous amount of talent.
“He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach.
“I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”