Nuggets Rumors

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Murray, Porter, Morris

Several weeks ago, the NBA Most Valuable race looked like a wide-open competition, with a number of viable candidates surging, including Sixers center Joel Embiid, Lakers forward LeBron James, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nets guard James Harden, among others. Since then, however, all of those players have missed time with injuries.

As a result, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has emerged as the clear frontrunner for this year’s MVP award, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Jokic, who is the only top candidate not to miss a game so far this season, has been outstanding, averaging new career highs in points (26.0), rebounds (10.9), and assists (8.8) per game to go along with a scorching .564/.418/.853 shooting line.

Bontemps conducted a straw poll of 101 NBA media members, and Jokic received 90 first-place votes and 969 total points, blowing away runner-up Embiid (five first-place votes; 401 points). If the outcome of the final vote is similar, Jokic will become the first center to win the MVP award since Shaquille O’Neal did so in 2000, Bontemps notes.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Head coach Michael Malone said on Wednesday that Jamal Murray was “devastated” to learn that he’d suffered a torn left ACL, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “It was really hard. We stayed over for that game in San Francisco,” Malone said. “Just sitting with him on the way to the airport, your heart breaks because you can see the raw emotion that he was feeling.”
  • With Murray out, the pressure is on Michael Porter Jr. to show the Nuggets he can become the team’s go-to scoring option on the perimeter, says Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. Keeler acknowledges that it’s not fair to put that sort of pressure on the 22-year-old, but writes that it’s an ideal opportunity for Porter to deliver on his star potential.
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic also explores how the Nuggets can cope in the wake of Murray’s injury, focusing on Porter and backup point guard Monte Morris, among others.
  • In case you missed it, the Nuggets and Austin Rivers are reportedly on track to finalizing a deal, perhaps a 10-day contract for now.

Austin Rivers In “Serious Talks” With Nuggets

The Nuggets are negotiating with free agent guard Austin Rivers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic, who adds that they are in “serious talks” toward a deal, pending health and safety protocols. The team’s interest in Rivers was first reported on Monday.

Rivers is currently in Denver and is expected to sign within the next few days, a source tells Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). It will likely be a 10-day contract, Singer adds (Twitter link).

The Nuggets are need of backcourt help after losing star guard Jamal Murray for the rest of the season with a torn left ACL. Denver has a roster opening and can add Rivers without a corresponding move.

Rivers, 28, signed with the Knicks during the offseason, but was never able to establish himself in the rotation, averaging 7.3 points and 2.0 assists in 21 games. He was traded to the Thunder at last month’s deadline and was waived a few days later.

Rivers would be eligible for the postseason because he wasn’t on an NBA roster beyond April 9, Singer notes (Twitter link). He offers plenty of playoff experience, having reached the postseason five times, including the past two years with the Rockets.

Jamal Murray Has Torn Left ACL

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who left Monday’s game with a scary non-contact knee injury (video link), has been diagnosed with a torn left ACL, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The club confirmed the diagnosis, announcing that Murray will be out indefinitely.

As we detailed earlier today, Murray suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Golden State on Monday. His knee buckled as he attempted to take off for a layup and he immediately fell to the floor in obvious pain, pounding the court with his hand. He eventually refused the wheelchair that had been brought onto the floor and hopped to the locker room without putting any weight on his left leg (video link).

Murray had been scheduled to undergo testing today to determine the severity of the injury, and while there was some hope that there would be good news, those tests have instead confirmed the Nuggets’ worst fears.

Based on the typical recovery timeline for ACL tears, the injury will end Murray’s season, putting a serious dent into Denver’s title hopes. It will almost certainly delay his 2021/22 debut as well, since the NBA is looking to get back on its usual schedule, which would mean an October start.

It’s a crushing blow for a Nuggets team that has played some of its best basketball of the season as of late. Before losing its last two games, Denver had won 17 of 20 and appeared to have hit its stride since adding Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline.

At 34-20, the Nuggets rank fourth in the Western Conference and should still earn a playoff spot, but Murray’s absence will significantly reduce the likelihood of a deep postseason run. A year ago, the standout guard was Denver’s leading scorer in the playoffs, with 26.5 PPG on a scorching .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 games (39.6 MPG).

Prior to Murray’s ACL tear, the Nuggets had already been in the market for more backcourt depth, with Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, and Troy Daniels among the players on their radar. That search figures to intensify in the wake of Murray’s injury, as the club may now be able to offer those players a spot higher on the depth chart.

Murray, meanwhile, is scheduled to fly back to Denver with the team in the next few hours, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who tweets that the 24-year-old’s surgery hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jamal Murray Undergoing MRI Following Left Knee Injury

In his first game back after missing four games with right knee soreness, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray went down in the fourth quarter against Golden State on Monday with a non-contact left knee injury (video link).

Murray, whose knee buckled as he attempted to take off for a layup, immediately fell to the floor in obvious pain, pounding the court with his hand. He eventually refused the wheelchair that had been brought onto the floor and hopped to the locker room without putting any weight on his left leg (video link).

The Nuggets didn’t have an update on Murray’s status after the game. Head coach Michael Malone indicated that the team is awaiting the results of an MRI, per Nick Friedell and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“No definitive answer right now. We will wait for the imaging and go from there,” Malone said. “Some of the (assistant) coaches said when they watched the replay it looked like he hyperextended it. He just came back (from his right knee injury), he was gone for four days. His (right) knee had been bothering him… just an awful feeling. Keep Jamal in your thoughts and prayers, and hopefully we will get some good news.”

If Murray’s injury is a serious one, it will be a devastating blow to a Nuggets team that has played some of its best basketball of the season in the last month or two. After starting the season with a modest 17-15 record, Denver won 17 of its next 20 games. The team has since dropped its last two and is now 34-20, good for fourth in the West.

Murray has been a key part of that success, averaging a career-best 21.2 PPG this season on .477/.408/.869 shooting in 48 games (35.5 MPG). Last season, he was the Nuggets’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 26.5 PPG on a scorching .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 games (39.6 MPG).

“Y’all know what he means to us, he’s ‘the dude’ — Nikola and Jamal,” Michael Porter Jr. said of Murray, according to Friedell and Youngmisuk. “They brought this team to new heights. You talk about their closing all the time. We need Jamal … but we are more worried about his well-being right now, how he is individually than the team. The team right now is an afterthought.”

We should learn more about Murray’s injury at some point today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Gordon, Redick, Walker, Little

Aaron Gordon asked the Magic to trade him because he had grown weary of trying to change that franchise’s culture, he explained to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Gordon is thrilled to play for a prime contender like the Nuggets.

“I felt like it was time,” Gordon said of his trade request. “I spent a good seven years in Orlando doing my best to change the culture, uplift the culture, turn the culture into a basketball mecca. That’s the ultimate goal. It was difficult. I was looking for insight. Looking to be a part of a winning culture, to see what that is really about, instead of being a part of a culture that you’re trying to turn into a winning culture.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • J.J. Redick was in uniform on Monday for the first time since the Mavericks acquired him from the Pelicans at the trade deadline last month, Dwain Price of tweets. He participated in his first full practice with Dallas on Saturday. The veteran guard has been sidelined since March 3 by a sore right heel and Achilles and underwent a non-surgical procedure last month. Dallas traded for Redick to have another outside shooting option heading into the postseason. Redick entered Monday’s game in the first quarter.
  • Spurs forward Lonnie Walker revealed that a wrist injury has nagged him throughout the season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Walker missed nearly three weeks of action before returning this past weekend. “It was extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this hand/wrist injury for a few months prior to me sitting down. For me to sit down is probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do.”
  • Trail Blazers swingman Nassir Little has earned more playing time at shooting guard, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The team’s first-round pick in 2019 played 24 minutes against Detroit on Saturday and contributed 11 points. “We’ll be doing it again,” coach Terry Stotts said. “He still has to learn some of the tricks of the trade as far as guarding perimeter players — coming off pin downs, guarding pick and rolls — but I think he is capable of doing that and we have to continue to see how he does in that role.”

Austin Rivers Receiving Interest From Nuggets

The Nuggets have some interest in free agent guard Austin Rivers, league sources tell Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Rivers is one of a handful of available guards being eyed by the Nuggets, according to Singer, who previously identified Troy Daniels and Gerald Green as a couple other veterans on the team’s radar.

Denver focused on upgrading its frontcourt at the trade deadline, acquiring Aaron Gordon from Orlando and JaVale McGee from Cleveland. However, those deals put a dent in the club’s backcourt depth, as Gary Harris and R.J. Hampton were among the outgoing pieces.

Since then, the Nuggets have signed Shaquille Harrison to a two-way contract, but they still have one opening on their 15-man roster and they intend to fill it sooner or later. A 10-day signing is a possibility, per Singer.

As Singer explains, COVID-19 protocols have complicated the process of bringing in players for workouts and auditions, which is slowing down Denver to some extent. Additionally, the Nuggets would like to find a player who could be relied upon down the stretch and in the postseason if needed, but who would be content with not seeing much – or any – playing time on a typical night. It’s unclear if Rivers fits that bill.

Rivers began the season with the Knicks, averaging 7.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 2.0 APG with a .430/.364/.714 shooting line in 21 games (21.0 MPG). The 28-year-old fell out of the team’s rotation though, and was eventually sent to Oklahoma City at the trade deadline. The Thunder subsequently waived him. While Milwaukee was rumored to be a potential landing spot for Rivers, the Bucks signed Jeff Teague instead and haven’t circled back to Rivers so far.

Nuggets Notes: Frontcourt, Murray, Daniels, Morris

A pair of trades at the deadline have left the Nuggets with a logjam in the frontcourt and not enough playing time to go around, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The team added Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee to a talented group that already had Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. seeing heavy minutes.

“That’s my biggest challenge right now,” coach Michael Malone said. “You have Paul Millsap, who’s been a starter here for four years. You have JaVale McGee, who we traded for at the trade deadline, and you have JaMychal Green, who we pursued heavily in free agency. All those guys bring value to our team, but it is truly impossible to play all three.”

Malone indicated he plans to rest Millsap on the second night of back-to-backs, which applies to five of the 20 games the Nuggets have remaining. Singer believes the odd man out could be Green, who signed with the team in November and has a $7.56MM player option for next season.

“They’ve all been very professional, I have to say that,” Malone said. “It’s not easy. I don’t think any of them love the situation, but what trumps everything is this. We’re trying to win a championship. We need all 15 guys in that locker room. It’s about sacrificing and investing in each other if that is truly our goal. The guys have been tremendous with their professionalism. As long I communicate with them, I think they’ll continue to be that way.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jamal Murray has missed the past three games with a sore right knee, but Malone isn’t worried that it will be a long-term issue, Singer tweets. Murray is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Celtics.
  • The Nuggets are looking at a pair of NBA veterans to fill the roster spot they opened this week by waiving Gary Clark. Shooting guard Troy Daniels, who signed with Denver last March, is a name that Singer says he has heard floated repeatedly (Twitter link). Daniels, 29, appeared in six games for the Nuggets last season, with five coming at the restart in Orlando. He also saw limited action in six playoff games. Denver is also considering 35-year-old shooting specialist Gerald Green, Singer adds (via Twitter). Green was in training camp with the Rockets in December, but was waived before the season began. He missed all of last season with a broken foot.
  • After a brief stay in the starting lineup, Monte Morris asked Malone if he could return to a reserve role, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Morris has started 11 of the 40 games he has played this season, but is more comfortable coming off the bench.

Nuggets Sign Shaquille Harrison, Cut Greg Whittington

APRIL 9: The moves are official, according to a press release from the team.

APRIL 8: The Nuggets intend to sign free agent guard Shaquille Harrison to a two-way contract, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Denver will make room for Harrison by waiving current two-way player Greg Whittington.

A 27-year-old guard known for his strong perimeter defense, Harrison began the season with the Jazz, but saw limited minutes (3.3 MPG) in his 17 games with the team and was released before his salary became fully guaranteed for 2020/21.

Having also spent time in past seasons with Phoenix and Chicago, Harrison has career averages of 5.5 PPG and 2.4 RPG on .444/.289/.710 shooting in 156 total contests (15.1 MPG).

Although Harrison likely won’t play a major role in Denver, he’ll be eligible to play in the postseason, since the NBA adjusted the rule restricting two-way players from participating in the playoffs this season.

As for Whittington, he signed a two-way deal with the Nuggets in the fall but appeared in just four games with the team, going scoreless in 12 total minutes. As Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets, the 28-year-old forward injured his knee in training camp and underwent a surgical procedure on it in January, derailing his first NBA season.

Even after signing Harrison, Denver won’t necessarily be done seeking backcourt depth, Singer adds (via Twitter). The club will have an open spot on its 15-man roster after waiving Gary Clark.

Nuggets Release Gary Clark

7:25pm: The Nuggets have officially waived Clark, per’s transactions log.

9:54am: In addition to making a change to one of their two-way contract slots, the Nuggets are also tweaking their 15-man roster, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Denver will waive forward Gary Clark.

The Nuggets acquired Clark in a deadline deal with Orlando last month, but he was essentially a throw-in, since the prize of that trade was Aaron Gordon.

Denver has a full 15-man roster, so dropping Clark will open up a spot, creating some flexibility for a potential depth addition down the stretch. While it’s not clear yet what the Nuggets might do with a spot, Mike Singer of The Denver Post suggested earlier today (via Twitter) that the team will remain on the lookout for backcourt depth even after signing Shaquille Harrison to a two-way deal.

Clark, who began his career with the Rockets in 2018, has since appeared in a total of 130 games Houston, Orlando, and Denver, averaging 3.3 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 14.6 MPG. He signed a two-year, $4.1MM contract with the Magic last fall, but the second-year salary of $2.1MM is non-guaranteed, so the Nuggets won’t be on the hook for any money beyond this season.

Assuming Clark and his $2MM cap hit go unclaimed on waivers, he’ll be eligible to sign with any club except the Magic. According to Wojnarowski, he’s expected to receive interest from some Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Gordon/Nuggets Helping Each Other Thrive

  • Dan Devine of The Ringer wonders if Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is allowing his new team to maximize its ceiling — and if being in Denver is doing the same for Gordon. Because he can cut off the ball, handle the rock, and roll to the rim, in addition to being a multifaceted defender, Gordon thus far has proven to be a more-than-serviceable facsimile of what Jerami Grant was in Denver last season. As of this writing, the Nuggets are poised to win their fifth straight game since adding Gordon.