Bones Hyland’s return to Ball was full of drama as Nuggets blitz Clips in OT

Feb 27, 2023, 12:49 AM | Updated: 12:52 am
Bones Hyland...
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

What did Bones Hyland do to upset the apple cart—why did this enigmatic, young, budding point guard burn out so quickly in the Michael Malone-coached Denver Nuggets universe?

Youth is wasted on the young, goes the saying, and perhaps that was never truer when you think about the rise and fall of Bizzy Bones.

The Nuggets selected Hyland 26th overall in the 2021 NBA draft out of VCU. He rolled an Atlantic 10 Player of the Year into an impressive NBA Summer League; and kept the momentum through a dynamic first season with the Nuggets, with Jamal Murray out the entire season recovering from knee surgery.

Hyland was the leader of the second unit. The ball was in his hands and his hands were flying. His handle was exquisite. His fearless shooting led to wild screams of joy. His exuberance often spilled over from the floor to the front row. Often, fans in attendance became part of the show as Hyland would chest bump and high-five the privileged patrons. In the only game the Nuggets would win in the playoff last year, Hyland went for 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists in 20 minutes. Bones was a delight as he would scream, “MILE HIGH CITY BAAAYYYBEEEEEE” into the mic after games while being interviewed on the floor of Ball Arena.

Who didn’t love Bizzy?

Now he’s a Clipper.

“I mean hopefully it’s love. I know it’s love on my end,” asked pre-game about what he was expecting from Nuggets fans, Hyland said. “Love in return will feel good. If not I know there’s always love on my end.”

“I feel it was just the wrong timing there (Denver.)” he said. “It’s a good situation here (L.A.,) Denver is a great organization too. I’m glad they took a chance on me. They just had to move on. I’m glad to be with the team I’m on.”

Sunday night’s match-up was a wild OT thriller, where the Nuggets rode a 14-4 overtime period to outlast the Clippers 134-124.

Nikola Jokic tallied another dominant triple-double, scoring 40 points, grabbing 17 boards and adding 10 helpers.

When Bones was in he wasn’t shy shooting hucking up shot after shot. His ten points actually helped the Clippers stay in the game, but he was a ghost after halftime, playing meaningless or non-impactful minutes.

As far as the fans booing? They did and did so with loud venom. Repeatedly, showering Hyland with negative energy. There was a certain amount of chirping going on from Hyland and Jamal Murray as they hit back-to-back threes.

The intensity level was high from the get-go.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone praised the crowd after the game, but before it offered just this about Hyland “I wish him all the best.”

Before the game general manager Calvin Booth discussed the reason for dealing Hyland.

“Chemistry is a big thing. And when I say chemistry I don’t mean bones is a bad kid or a bad personality or anything like that. I’m talking like when Jamal Murray is your best player and he makes the max (max contract player) and when they play together in Minnesota Jamal has to guard Anthony Edwards. That’s not fair to Jamal,” the former NBA big man explained after a long pause. “So I think just from that standpoint fitting around our best players which are Joker and Jamal, I think more of defensive guy is the way to go”

As it turns out the truth lies somewhere in the middle between a problem child and a square peg round hole situation.

Murray eventually got healthy and returned to being the real Blue Arrow. The Nuggets drafted Christian Braun out of Kansas who has his own unique electricity and is certainly a better defender than Hyland. Bruce Brown has been perhaps the best sixth man in the NBA and can play all positions besides center. Michael Porter Jr. got healthy as well. Slowly but surely, Hyland was getting pushed out and he could feel it.

But, wasn’t there something inside him that told him he was with a rare team and opportunities to win in the NBA are few and far between? Maybe yes, but likely no.

I asked Aaron Gordon about Bones last year as the young man was commonly burying 30-plus foot threes, could you actually be too confident? Gordon, took his time as he often does to firmly think about his answer. He replied, “no.” Gordon explained to be in the NBA, you just can’t think that anybody is better than you.

While a thought process like that is understandable, it comes with a cost.

If you truly don’t believe anybody is better than you, how in the world can you be satisfied with a lesser role? How can you come off the bench? How can you be a big part of things only to be taken out at the close of games?

This was the fate of Hyland on this special Nuggets team and he just couldn’t make it work.

Hyland cast aspirations at the coaching staff for not communicating and while he may have had a point, he destroyed credibility by leaving the bench in the fourth quarter of a game. He followed with cryptic tweets and hidden messages that bespoke of somebody in the me way of life rather than in the we way that has been relentlessly espoused by Malone and basically every other player on the team, most notably two time (soon to be three-time) NBA MVP Jokic.

Asked about how he felt about the possibility of Bones being traded just days before he was dealt, Jokic flat-lined, “no comment.” When the leader of the team is done with you, your fate is sealed.

Hyland was packaged with Davon Reed and the Nuggets received big man Thomas Bryant and eventually used the open roster spot on local legend guard Reggie Jackson. Neither of these two players have a smidgen of lightning-strike personality like Hyland. But, they also don’t bring any drama.

Hyland has found a weird space with the Clippers, who have recently acquired Russell Westbrook. Before Westbrook’s arrival, he played 16 minutes against the Warriors scoring six points. In his next game, which was against the Suns, Hyland again played 16 minutes putting up nine points. Then Russ came to town. In an NBA epic battle, the Clippers lost to the Kings 176-175 in double OT. It was the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history. Westbrook played 39 minutes and scored 17 points. Hyland never left the bench. A DNP coach’s decision for a player who has expressed displeasure with his previous coaches likely doesn’t sit well.

So, who will Hyland become? With the Nuggets he was selected to be in this year’s Rising Stars game at the NBA all-star game. With the Nuggets, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. With the Nuggets, he had a chance to be a significant player on a championship contender.


The game was over and Clippers coach Ty Lue threw Hyland in for the dying seconds. Somewhat pathetically, Hyland put up a meaningless three. He banged it off the rim harmlessly. After the horn sounded Hyland would be greeted by all his ex-teammates including Murray

“It was fun. That’s my guy. We played against each other a lot in practice” was about as sentimental as Murray would get afterward.

Jokic also had words for Bones at the end. Big brother to little brother and with that Hyland jogged off.

It is way too early to write off such a talented young player. But, if he floats from team to team only to wonder what could’ve been, it will be a tale as old as time. Likely Hyland will be back in Denver to take on the Nuggets time and time again, but Sunday night may have been the last time it mattered.



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