Jamal Murray

Northwest Notes: Murray, MPJ, Wolves, Thunder

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has demonstrated his leadership abilities during the team’s playoff run this year, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes.

Denver is currently trailing 0-1 against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and has bounced back from a 3-1 series deficit twice this postseason, something no other NBA franchise has ever done.

“Jamal has grown up, he has become more of a leader, more vocal,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “What he did in that Utah series was incredible with his play but also the emotional leadership that he showed for our team and that was contagious.

“He took his whole team with him, which you don’t see very often for such a young player.”

Murray has stepped up on both ends of the floor, averaging 26.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in 15 playoff contests. He was a key cog in the team’s victories over the Jazz and Clippers in previous rounds, proving his worth at just 23 years old.

“This is something that you have to understand, take responsibility for,” Malone said. “You’ve got to be better. On the court, your preparation, your professionalism, your work ethic and your leadership. He’s taken all those things into account and tried to be better in every one of those areas, which is all you want.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post explores how Michael Porter Jr. has earned the respects of his coach, with the 22-year-old providing quality depth off the bench during the Nuggets’ postseason run. “In those games, the games that you talk about when he’s on the floor when so much is hanging in the balance, that’s invaluable for a young player,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “I think what’s earned him those minutes is that he’s really bought in, grown and committed to the defensive end of the floor.”
  • The Timberwolves are hiring 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon in a draft preparation and player personnel consultant role, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Minnesota owns the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, set to commence on November 18.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman proposes three trade scenarios for the Thunder involving star point guard Chris Paul, who led the franchise to a 44-28 record this season and received All-NBA Second Team honors. Multiple teams are said to have interest in Paul, 35, though his contract ($41.35MM next season and $44.21MM player option in 2021-22) would make any potential deal challenging. It’s also unclear how motivated Oklahoma City is to move him.

Pacific Notes: Rivers, George, Harrell, Catanella, Suns

Doc Rivers will likely coach the Clippers next season, but his future with the organization beyond that is sketchy, Jovan Buha of The Athletic opines. The way the 2020/21 season plays out will determine Rivers’ future with the franchise, Buha continues. There will be even more pressure for the Clippers to finally reach the Finals for the first time, Buha adds, and if it doesn’t happen then there could be a mutual parting of ways.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns hope their $45MM practice facility will be finished in October, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The courts are still being installed and painted, team officials told Rankin. Team owner Robert Sarver originally targeted August for the completion of the privately-financed facility.
  • New Kings GM Monte McNair is expected to retain assistant GM and salary cap expert Ken Catanella, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Catanella has been in the Sacramento front office since 2016 following a five-year stint with the Pistons.
  • Clippers teammates Montrezl Harrell and Paul George got into a heated verbal exchange during a timeout of Game 2 against Denver, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. George committed a turnover on an attempted half-court pass to Harrell, which was intercepted by Jamal Murray. George told Harrell the pass could have been caught if he made the right play and that made Harrell angry.

Northwest Notes: Clarkson, Murray, Timberwolves, Donovan, Paul

Jordan Clarkson enjoyed his stint with the Jazz this season, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll remain in Utah, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. Clarkson will be an unrestricted free agent and multiple suitors will be after his services, Todd points out. Clarkson was a sparkplug off the bench for a playoff team, averaging 15.6 PPG, and the Jazz will be first in line to make him an offer, Todd adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray can truly cement himself as a superstar if the Nuggets can overcome Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post opines. Following his huge performances in the opening round against Utah, Murray was held to 12 points in Game 1 of the Nuggets’ second-round series against the Clippers on Thursday.
  • The Timberwolves will stay open-minded as they mull what to do with the No. 1 overall pick, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas says all options are on the table, since there’s no surefire star in this year’s draft class. “We’re going to do incredible due diligence, whether it’s a point guard, whether it’s a big,” he said. “I’m 100 percent in the camp of ‘find the best player with the best upside.’ That’s the path we’re going to take.”
  • The futures of head coach Billy Donovan and point guard Chris Paul are the biggest questions looming over the Thunder, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Paul is under contract for two more seasons but OKC isn’t likely to attach draft picks to a potential deal, considering Paul’s strong season and playoff performances.

Northwest Notes: Carmelo, Lillard, Paul, Dort, Murray, Schroder

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard received some high praise from veteran teammate Carmelo Anthony over the weekend, with Portland taking a hard-fought 126-122 victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday to cement the team’s status as the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Anthony, who has made stops with the Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder, Rockets and Blazers across his 17-year NBA career, has naturally played with some all-time great players and leaders. At the top of Anthony’s list of great teammates, however, is none other than Lillard himself.

“Dame’s at the top for me,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “I’ve never played with someone who lifted his team on the court with his play and as a leader. He genuinely cares for his teammates. What he’s been able to do is amazing. He’s the top guy I’ve played with.”

Lillard has dominated during the NBA’s restart, being named the Player of the Seeding Games while averaging 37.6 points and 9.6 assists per contest. He also recorded 31 points and 10 assists in the team’s play-in game against Memphis.

For Lillard, his production extends past the hardwood. He’s known as a high-character leader both on the court and off, maximizing his teammates’ games and personalities to achieve success.

“If I’m showing frustration, it might spread to the team,” Lillard said. “My job is to keep everyone motivated and encouraged so that we can play to the best of our abilities. There are a lot of things that you can’t control during a season, but we can control how hard we work.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • The Thunder are monitoring various injuries to Chris Paul and Luguentz Dort ahead of their first-round series against the Rockets, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. It’s unclear whether Dort will play in Game 1 on Tuesday, with the 21-year-old missing Friday’s contest against the Clippers due to a right knee sprain. As for Paul, he missed Friday’s game due to a left hand sprain, but the injury isn’t believed to be serious. “We don’t think so, but we’re just being cautious with him,” head coach Billy Donovan said on whether Paul’s injury is significant. “He should be fine when we get around to playing Game 1. Lu’s a different situation. I have uncertainty whether or not he’ll even be available for Game 1.” 
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores how Jamal Murray used his past failures to enter the 2020 postseason as an improved player. The Nuggets lost to the Blazers in last year’s playoffs during a hard-fought seven-game series, one the team hasn’t forgotten about since. “Even though we lost to Portland in a heartbreaking Game 7, I think our players took positives out of it, learning opportunities,” head coach Mike Malone said. “Jamal, for one, has made post defense a huge point of emphasis and focus for himself.”
  • Thunder guard Dennis Schroder returned to the court for the team’s final seeding game after quarantining for four days, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Schroder left the Orlando campus on Aug. 3 for the birth of his second child, returning on Aug. 10 to start a mandatory four-day quarantine. He finished with 17 points and four assists in 25 minutes of work on Friday, getting some in-game action before the team’s first-round playoff series begins. “The NBA did a great job, OKC did a great job bringing me to my wife to support her,” Schroder said postgame. “Came back and had to quarantine for four days. It was pretty rough, staying in a small room was pretty tough. I’m back now. Left my room today and got a little [practice] session in at 11 [a.m.] and was able to come back tonight.”

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Dort, Wolves, Murray

Blazers star Damian Lillard missed two clutch free throws in the team’s disappointing loss against the Clippers on Saturday, drawing some laughter and mockery from Paul George and Patrick Beverley at the end of the contest, as written by Jason Quick of The Athletic.

Beverley, who’s known for taunting players throughout his career, was quick to get on Lillard for missing both free throws, mocking his signature “Dame Time” wrist-tap while audibly laughing. Upon being asked of Beverley’s antics postgame, Lillard didn’t mince words.

“PG did the wave because he was also surprised,” Lillard said of missing his free throws. “Because he experienced getting waved at last year. PG … let me say this: For one, I know what happened. I expect myself to make those free throws, and I didn’t when my team needed it, which is a failure for me. That I can accept.

“But asking me about Patrick Beverley, who I’ve sent home before at the end of the game, Paul George got sent home by me last year in the playoff. So they know the reason they are reacting like that is because of what they expect from me, which his a sign of respect,” Lillard continued. “And it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. So I’m not offended by it.

“If anything it should tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.”

All three players engaged in a war of words on social media after the game, with George writing, “And you getting sent home this year [laughing emoji] respect,” and Beverley writing “Cancun on 3 [three laughing emojis]” in response to Lillard’s comments. The Trail Blazers’ star replied with a simple but forceful statement. “Keep switching teams … running from the grind. You boys is chumps.”

The Blazers (32-39) currently sit one game behind the Grizzlies (33-38) for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, with Saturday’s loss coming against a Clippers team that played without the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Thunder guard Luguentz Dort has shown flashes of improvement in his offensive game, Cameron Jourdan of The Oklahoman writes. Dort, 21, scored 16 points on Friday and nine points on Sunday, demonstrating his potential throughout the contests. He went undrafted last June and has earned the respects of his teammates and coaches this season.
  • The Timberwolves now officially own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in the upcoming draft, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Minnesota acquired the pick in a four-team trade last February, though the pick was lottery protected. The Nets would’ve kept the pick if they had missed the playoffs.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray doubled his minutes restriction and shined in his Orlando debut against the Jazz on Saturday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Murray finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 39 minutes of work during a double-overtime contest, helping the Nuggets seal their 46th win of the season.

Injury Notes: Beverley, Dragic, MCW, Nuggets, More

Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley left Tuesday’s game against Phoenix in the first quarter with a left calf injury and didn’t return, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. The injury isn’t considered serious, but Doc Rivers suggested after the game that the team will play it safe, with the postseason not scheduled to begin until August 17.

“I don’t think it’s bad,” the Clippers’ head coach said. “We’re going to be very cautious, I can tell you that.”

Beverley’s injury occurred just as Lou Williams returned to action for the Clippers following his 10-day quarantine period. If Beverley is able to get back on the court soon and Montrezl Harrell reports to the team within the next week or so, L.A. should be back at full strength before the playoffs get underway.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Heat guard Goran Dragic suffered a slight ankle sprain near the end of Tuesday’s win over Boston, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that X-rays on the ankle came back negative.
  • Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams, who left Tuesday’s game with a sore left foot, has been diagnosed with a tendon strain after undergoing an MRI, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Carter-Williams is doubtful to play on Wednesday vs. Toronto.
  • The Nuggets will once again be without Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (knee) on Wednesday, but the team has upgraded Jamal Murray (hamstring) to questionable (Twitter link). Denver is in action again on Thursday, so it won’t be a surprise if Murray ends up playing one half of the back-to-back set.
    [UPDATE: Murray was ruled out for Wednesday’s game]
  • Speaking of back-to-backs, the Heat held Jimmy Butler (right ankle soreness) out of the second leg of a back-to-back set on Tuesday, while the Celtics are doing the same with Kemba Walker on Wednesday (Twitter link). Both teams are likely just playing it safe with their All-Stars.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Robinson, Harris, Barton, Mills

Joel Embiid missed the Sixers’ last two scrimmage games due to right calf tightness. However, he’s expected to play on Saturday in the team’s seeding opener against the Pacers, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Embiid suffered the calf injury during a July 24 scrimmage against the Grizzlies and played just 13 minutes. He also battled injuries prior to the stoppage of play in March. He missed nine games with a torn ligament in his right hand, and sat out five others with a left shoulder sprain, Pompey notes.

The Sixers can improve their playoff seeding during the next eight games. They are tied for fifth place in the East with Indiana at 39-26.

We have more injury-related news:

  • Sixers forward Glenn Robinson III is doubtful to play on Saturday, Pompey notes in the same story. He has a left hip pointer, which he suffered during a scrimmage against the Thunder on Sunday.
  • The Nuggets will go without at least two key players in their seeding opener on Saturday, the team’s PR department tweets. Guard Gary Harris has a right hip muscle strain while Will Barton is dealing with right knee soreness. Reserve big man Vlatko Cancar (left foot fracture) will also miss the game. Starting point guard Jamal Murray is questionable duo to left hamstring tightness.
  • Spurs veteran guard Patty Mills didn’t play in the team’s first game in Orlando but it wasn’t injury-related, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk tweets. Coach Gregg Popovich simply wanted to use his younger guards more extensively. Shooting guard Bryn Forbes‘ absence was injury-related — he’s dealing with a sore right quad.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz, Wolves

The Nuggets have been one of the most short-handed teams at the NBA’s campus so far, having been limited to just eight players in each of their first two scrimmages this summer. However, reinforcements are on the way for Monday’s game against Orlando.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters this afternoon that Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Keita Bates-Diop will all be available to play in tonight’s game, increasing the team’s roster count to 12 (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of The Athletic).

While he won’t be active tonight, Nuggets guard Monte Morris moved one step closer to getting back on the court as well, having cleared quarantine, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets. He seems likely to be ready by the time Denver plays its first seeding game vs. Miami on Saturday.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest items…

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s scrimmage against Toronto due to inflammation in his left foot, but head coach Terry Stotts said the club doesn’t expect it to be “a long-term thing,” writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a deep dive into the Jazz‘s ability to retain both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert long term, exploring the odds of the team doing so and speculating about what their contracts might look like.
  • University of Denver guard Ade Murkey, a Minnesota native, has interviewed with his hometown Timberwolves during the pre-draft process, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Murkey averaged 18.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .481/.400/.731 shooting line as a senior.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Porter, Millsap, Murray

Bol Bol hasn’t played in an official NBA game yet, but he’s the talk of Orlando after his performance in the Nuggets‘ first two scrimmages. Pressed into service because of Denver’s shortage of players, the 7’2″ rookie posted 16 points and six blocks in Wednesday’s game, then followed that with 15 points last night.

A foot injury ended Bol’s college career after nine games at Oregon and caused him to slip to the 44th pick in the draft. The Nuggets may gotten a steal with that pick, which Bol’s trainer, Julius V, believed all along.

“He has elite feel for the game,” he told Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “If he was 6’3″, he could be an elite point guard. … He’s one of those guys, regardless of height or size, he would be a potential NBA player because he has ball skills and feel. … The height makes him a unicorn.”

There’s more Nuggets news to pass along:

  • Coach Michael Malone is confident that Michael Porter Jr. can adapt quickly, even though he hasn’t worked with the rookie forward since the hiatus began, Singer writes in a separate story. Porter just arrived in Orlando a few days ago and hasn’t been able to practice yet because he’s been quarantined. “I’ve stayed in touch with him, I’ve talked to him,” Malone said. “From everything he’s told me, he’s in great shape, he’s stayed ready. So when he gets an opportunity relatively soon to start practicing and playing, I have no doubt that he’ll be out there in great shape. He’s young and he truly loves to play, he truly loves to work out. I don’t anticipate any real issues. Yes, it’s four months off, but I think Michael will have a very quick return to that playing mindset.”
  • Paul Millsap had to sit out Saturday’s scrimmage after missing a coronavirus test, tweets Rachel Nichols of ESPN. Under the NBA’s protocol for the Walt Disney World campus, he was required to be quarantined in his hotel room until he produces a negative test.
  • Point guard Jamal Murray was held out of the scrimmage because of slight tightness in his hamstring, according to Nichols (Twitter link). The Nuggets also rested Will Barton, who has a knee issue, and Gary Harris, who is dealing with hip pain.

Nuggets Notes: Starting Five, Porter, Barton, Cancar

After a layoff of nearly four-and-a-half months, basketball returned today, and the Nuggets celebrated the occasion by running out the most unusual five-man starting lineup we’ve seen all season in their inter-squad scrimmage vs. Washington.

As Kendra Andrews of The Athletic relays (via Twitter), Denver’s starting five consisted entirely of power forwards and centers, with Nikola Jokic, Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, and Mason Plumlee joined by rookie Bol Bol, making his Nuggets debut after having been limited to eight G League appearances so far in his first professional season.

The Nuggets rolled with that gigantic lineup in large part because a handful of their players were unavailable on Wednesday. Here are updates on a few of those players:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is traveling to Orlando today, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Porter hadn’t initially traveled with the team two weeks ago and had yet to arrive at the NBA’s campus, but should be able to begin his two-day quarantine period on Wednesday evening.
  • Will Barton was held out of the Nuggets’ first inter-squad scrimmage today due to knee soreness, Singer writes in a separate Denver Post story. According to head coach Michael Malone, Barton could have played today if he were needed, but the team preferred to take a cautious approach (Twitter link via Singer). Jamal Murray was also held out of today’s scrimmage as a precautionary measure.
  • Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar is dealing with a left foot injury and has yet to arrive in Orlando, per Singer. Cancar was listed on the Nuggets’ official summer roster announced by the NBA on Monday, so presumably the team still believes he has a chance to report to the Disney campus.