Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone directs his players against the Orlando Magic in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER |  Denver Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman once served as a ball boy for the Portland Trail Blazers. His dad was a successful coach of the Blazers, too.

Now, he’ll be making his acting head coaching debut against, as it just so happens, Portland. Adelman slides over a seat to the top spot on the bench Tuesday night with coach Michael Malone sidelined after entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

“It’s very coincidental. It’s kind of odd,” Adelman said of facing the Blazers. “It’s kind of cool. … But the bottom line is whoever we’re playing tonight, we’re trying to go get a win. … I’ll do the best job I can.”

Adelman found out before shootaround earlier in the day that he would be stepping in for Malone, who wasn’t feeling well, he said. Adelman added Malone will be in contact with the staff — via cellphone — and fellow assistant coach Ryan Saunders will serve as Adelman’s right-hand adviser.

Last season, Adelman was in line for a similar opportunity when Malone entered health and safety protocols. But then Adelman tested positive.

“The responsibilities change,” said Adelman, who may coach again Wednesday night against Minnesota. “But like I said, everything remains the same as far as our expectation of how we want to play.”

Adelman’s father, Rick, spent six seasons with the Blazers and guided the team to the NBA Finals on two occasions. Rick Adelman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021. His 1,042 wins in stints with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota rank 10th all-time among NBA coaches.

Although David Adelman would like to one day follow in his father’s footsteps and be an NBA head coach, his immediate goal remains modest: Keep the Nuggets rolling. Denver entered the night tied with Memphis for the top spot in the Western Conference.

“I don’t want it to feel different because we’ve had such a good run here,” said Adelman, who’s in his sixth season as an assistant with Denver. “That’s the No. 1 goal, just to be consistent with what we’ve done. … We will do the best we can.”

Malone has won 344 games over eight seasons with the Nuggets, which is the third-most in team history. He trails only Doug Moe (432) and George Karl (423). Malone also has a 21-27 postseason mark with Denver.

“Everyone will step up,” Adelman said. “Different roles, but same expectations as if he’s here. That’s where Coach has been so good over the years — there’s an expectation of how we prepare, how we go about our business, and we’ll try to do that for him tonight.”


Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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