Jamal Murray

Nuggets Notes: Barton’s Return, Porter, Murray, Jokic, Malone

Nuggets’ guard Will Barton is expected to play tonight, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Barton had previously been listed as “doubtful,” but over the course of the last 24 hours, had been upgraded to “questionable.” Now it seems that barring a setback, he’ll appear for the Nuggets in an important Game Two.

The 30-year-old has been inactive since April 23 with a hamstring strain, but has been ramping up his workouts in recent days. Adding Barton back into the Nuggets rotation would give them a 6’6, athletic option to try defensively on Devin Booker, who had 21 points on 12 shots against a combination of Austin Rivers, Aaron Gordon, and others in the Suns’ Game One victory.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Michael Porter tweaked his back in Game One, but head coach Michael Malone expects him back for tonight’s game, reports ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He got treatment all day today, had a good conversation with him. But, barring anything unforeseen, Michael should be good to go for Game 2,” Malone said. The 22-year-old forward missed his first year in the NBA due to back injuries, but there seems to be little concern Game One’s injury was anything more than a minor tweak.
  • The Nuggets haven’t provided a specific timeline for Jamal Murray‘s return from his torn ACL, but sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that the earliest they expect the guard to return would be in February 2022. Murray has been spotted getting shots up before games while avoiding putting weight on his injured knee.
  • The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and the Denver Post’s Sean Keeler both took a closer look at Nikola Jokic‘s rise from 41st pick to 2021 MVP. Keeler writes about Jokic’s underdog mentality and how he refuses to lobby for his own awards. “I didn’t come here to want to be MVP of the league,” Jokic told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I always think someone is better than me. I want to compete to beat him. Just by that mentality, I’m going to be underdog, always.” Meanwhile Vecenie writes about the draft process that led Jokic to Denver. “It was just kind of lucky scouting, to be honest with you,” said team president Tim Connelly.
  • Malone called the Nuggets’ mentality in Game One “soft,” reports ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I think [we] had a soft mentality,” Malone said. “You can’t give up eight and-1s in a playoff game. If you’re going to foul somebody, foul them, and not let them get the and-1.Aaron Gordon agreed with his coach’s assessment. “Scared, that’s another way to play it,” said Gordon. “You could choose between them two words, either soft or scared, that’s what it felt like we were playing like.” Jokic offered a different take, saying he didn’t believe they played soft, but that the team needed to be more decisive when the Suns started getting hot.

Nuggets Notes: Rivers, Murray, N’Dong, Fall

Austin Rivers delivered a 21-point performance for the Nuggets while playing 37 minutes in Game 3 against Portland. Rivers, who was an afterthought with the Knicks and got waived by the Thunder after New York traded him, has been a perfect fit with the Nuggets, head coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“Austin needed a team and we needed a player,” Malone said. “We were decimated by injuries. Austin was out there, he was available. … The timing, the need of it, was perfect on both ends.”

Rivers signed a rest-of-the-season deal after an audition on a 10-day contract.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Rivers is hopeful the Nuggets will re-sign him when he becomes a free agent again this summer, Singer tweetsThe goal’s to be here long-term,” he said. “It’s just been a natural fit. I can’t speak for them, I know it’s a business … I love this team, that’s all I can say.”
  • Jamal Murray may be out for the season with a torn ACL but he’s still a major presence on the team’s bench, serving as a de facto coach, Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post notes. “His energy, his presence and his positivity are really impactful,” Malone said.Monte (Morris) is still a really young player in terms of NBA experience. But Facu (Campazzo) is a rookie. Markus Howard is a rookie. Shaq Harrison has played in the NBA, but these are his first playoff games. … A guy like Jamal who has 33 games of playoff experience at a high level, he can also be impactful in terms of helping those guys with what they’re facing on the court.”
  • Nuggets player development coach Boniface N’Dong and front office associate Dethie Fall, natives of Senegal, believe the new Basketball Africa League will have a major impact on African players and the NBA, Alex Labidou of the team’s website writes. “Africa has a lot of talent,” said N’Dong, who is also the head coach of the Senegal national team. “Africa is pretty big, there are 52 countries. I think you’re going to see a lot of [Pascal] Siakams, a lot of [Joel] Embiids, and a lot of Gorgui Diengs coming out of nowhere.”

Western Notes: Ayton, Warriors, Suns, Bridges, Murray

Suns star Chris Paul praised third-year center Deandre Ayton for changing his game and adapting to a new role with the team, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic tweets.

Despite a decrease in his overall numbers, Ayton has improved his activity on both ends of the court, serving as a valuable screen-setter and rebounder for the top-ranked team in the league.

Paul, a 16-year veteran, mentioned that every player on Phoenix has grown this season, though none quite like Ayton. The former first overall pick has served as a key cog in the team’s success and has accepted the idea of starring in his complementary role, averaging 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • The Warriors‘ loss to the Timberwolves on Thursday was their most consequential defeat of the season, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes, noting that the result negatively impacted both the Dubs’ playoff position and the Wolves’ lottery position. Golden State lost the contest 126-114 (and was out-rebounded by 23), though the team bounced back on Saturday to defeat Houston 113-87.
  • The Suns could be facing a sizable money crunch soon, Zach Lowe of ESPN notes. Star guard Devin Booker is under a maximum-salary contract, veteran Chris Paul owns a $44.2MM player option for next season and both Ayton and Mikal Bridges will be eligible for extensions this summer. Rival executives believe Bridges’s next contract may approach $20MM per season, Lowe reports.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray reunited with his team and offered an inspiring message on Saturday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Murray suffered a torn ACL last month and re-emphasized that the team still has one major goal: win the championship. “You just felt the energy lift when he walked in,” teammate PJ Dozier said. “We cheered for him. Just good to have our brother back. Good to see him, see him doing well at that. We just wanted to make sure his spirits were high.”

Jamal Murray Undergoes Reconstructive ACL Surgery

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray underwent surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the team announced in a press release.

The Nuggets did not release a timetable for his recovery, though the nature of the surgery suggests he’ll miss time next season as well.

Murray suffered the non-contact injury during the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Golden State on April 12. 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 the leg.

The injury is a devastating blow to Denver’s championship aspirations. A year ago, Murray 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). He was averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.8 APG and 4.0 RPG this season.

The Nuggets will rely on Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris in Murray’s absence. They’ve won their first three games since Murray’s season-ending injury.

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.

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.

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 Notes: Bradley, Luxury Tax, Gordon, Tucker, Barnes, Murray

The Nuggets would have some interest in guard Avery Bradley if he’s bought out, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Bradley was part of package the Heat shipped to Houston for Victor Oladipo. Bradley has only appeared in 10 games this season due to injury. There’s a $5.9MM team option on the remaining year of his contract.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • The team’s ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax in a future season as long as the club is a prime contender for the title, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Denver has managed to stay below the tax threshold this season. Aaron Gordon‘s contract and Michael Porter Jr.‘s rookie deal expire after next season, giving the franchise a season-and-a-half to evaluate whether keeping both of them, along with stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, is worth a big luxury tax bill. However, ownership doesn’t want to be a “repeater” tax team, Lowe adds. Teams are subject to repeater penalties when they’ve been a taxpayer in three of four seasons.
  • Prior to acquiring Gordon from the Magic, the Nuggets discussed a P.J. Tucker trade with the Rockets but never got close to an agreement, Lowe reports in the same story. They also sent feelers to the Kings regarding Harrison Barnes but Sacramento wasn’t interested in dealing him.
  • Murray has been very proactive about his interest in playing for Team Canada in the Summer Olympics, Raptors and Team Canada coach Nick Nurse told The Athletic’s Blake Murphy (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: SGA, Murray, Beasley, Jazz

Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is looking forward to getting the chance to play Chris Paul and the Suns for the first time this season on Wednesday, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Paul served as a mentor for Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City last season, and the two guards have remained close even after CP3 was dealt to Phoenix.

“Obviously me and him built a bond over the past year, to where he’s almost like a brother to me,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We talk about everything. How life’s going, how the teams are doing, how we’re doing.”

Gilgeous-Alexander added that it was a “blessing” to play with a veteran star like Paul last season, and that the bond the two former teammates built has had “even more of an impact than the on-the-court stuff,” per Mussatto.

Here’s more from around the Thunder:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was fined $25K on Wednesday for an incident that occurred during Monday’s win over Dallas, according to an NBA press release. During the third quarter of that game, Murray struck Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr. in the groin area. Murray was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and was ejected.
  • After signing a lucrative new long-term deal with the Timberwolves in the offseason, Malik Beasley wants to win the Most Improved Player award and help lead the team to the playoffs this season, as he tells Ben Stinar of Forbes.
  • The Jazz‘s G League affiliate (the Salt Lake City Stars) officially announced its roster for the upcoming season, while the Thunder‘s affiliate (the Oklahoma City Blue) named Bradford Burgess an assistant coach. The Stars’ roster includes Yogi Ferrell, who will be an affiliate player for the Jazz after a brief stint with the Cavaliers earlier this month.