Jamal Murray

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Jackson, Bryant, Nnaji, Murray

The Nuggets remain atop the Western Conference despite losing five of their last seven games. Coach Mike Malone says it’s time for his team to start playing at a championship level as the postseason approaches, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

“That’s not up to our standards,” he said of the team’s recent stretch. “This is gonna sound weird for most people, but more important than the wins and losses, is how we’re playing. Yeah, we want to win every night, but as I told our players yesterday, with 10 games to go now, it’s all about getting back to playing and developing championship habits. We got away from that.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Reggie Jackson has shot 31.4 percent since he signed as a free agent. Thomas Bryant has averaged just 9.9 minutes since being acquired from the Lakers. Malone says he’s closer to deciding whether they’ll be part of the postseason rotation. “You have to give them an honest look. Can’t just be one or two games. You have to give them an extended look to see what you have,” Malone told Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. “But now with 10 games to go, we’ve gotta find a group and a rhythm and give them some opportunities to formulate that on-court chemistry moving forward. And I have a pretty good idea of who that is.”
  • Zeke Nnaji is also getting a look late in the season after returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for six weeks, according to Singer. In his first game back, the 22-year-old power forward played 12 minutes and contributed four points, five rebounds and a block against Brooklyn. Malone said Nnaji made the second unit more athletic and versatile defensively.
  • Jamal Murray has averaged 35.8 minutes per game this month despite dealing with right knee inflammation and occasional left knee soreness. Malone said Murray’s health is being monitored on a regular basis, Singer writes.  “It’s a daily conversation with Jamal, the training staff,” Malone said. “See where he’s at, not just physically, but mentally as well.”

Northwest Notes: Braun, Murray, Lillard, Towns

Christian Braun‘s playing time has diminished since the Nuggets signed veteran point guard Reggie Jackson. Braun may warrant a return to the second unit, considering his performance on Sunday against Brooklyn, Harrison Wind of TheDnvr.com writes. Braun had seven points, three rebounds and an assist in 12 minutes. Braun is also one of the team’s better defenders, Wind adds, and got an endorsement from the team’s franchise player.

“He was good. I actually told him, not just his energy, he actually played really good,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said of the first-round pick out of Kansas. “He had good minutes. He was talking on the floor. He was running correct. Energy, you need to have energy when you play, especially him.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray departed the Nuggets’ loss to the Nets in the third quarter on Sunday due to left knee soreness. However, a source told the Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter link) that Murray was “fine.”
  • Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s game with calf tightness but coach Chauncey Billups was still stunned by how poorly the Trail Blazers played in a loss to New Orleans, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes. Portland trailed by as much as 39 points to the Pelicans. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either, knowing how pivotal this game is,” he said. “That team was very short-handed. That team was playing on the back-to-back. That team was very desperate.”
  • A good sign for the Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns was spotted in a practice uniform putting up shots at the end of the team’s shootaround in Atlanta on Monday, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets. A calf strain has kept the star big man on the shelf since November 28.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Barton, Conley, Gobert, Kessler, Simons

Jamal Murray‘s ex-teammate believes he’ll be in top form during the postseason, Michael Grange of Sportnet writes.

Will Barton, who recently signed with the Raptors, says the regular season is just a “tune up” for the Nuggets guard, who didn’t play last season due to a knee injury.

“I know he’s anxious to get back to the playoffs,” Barton said. “The regular season is just a tune up for him to get his confidence back, and I know once he gets to the playoffs he’ll make that leap. He’s so competitive – that’s what I love about him, he competes at such a high level, and he loves the bright lights. That’s one guy they won’t have to worry about, because he’s going to perform.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Having former Jazz teammate Mike Conley on his side again has helped Rudy Gobert settle into a groove with the Timberwolves, coach Chris Finch told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). Gobert is averaging 17.7 points over the last six games. “I think you see it. The chemistry is obvious,” Finch said. “We could’ve played another 40 games (without Conley) and just begin to develop that. … I think Rudy has got a pep in his step.”
  • Walker Kessler still faces an uphill climb for the Rookie of the Year award despite being named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. The Jazz rookie averaged 10.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in February but the Magic’s Paolo Banchero remains the top candidate for the yearly award.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons missed his third consecutive game during the team’s six-game road trip on Monday due to an right ankle sprain, the team’s PR department tweets.

Injury Updates: Raptors, Bucks, Blazers, Nuggets

OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Thaddeus Young were all full practice participants on Tuesday evening and head coach Nick Nurse said they looked “good, healthy and ready to go,” on Thursday against New Orleans, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. All three players will indeed play tonight, Lewenberg confirmed on Thursday (via Twitter).

Barring Otto Porter, who is out for the season after foot surgery, the rest of Toronto’s injury report was clean until Fred VanVleet was downgraded to out shortly before tip-off due to personal reasons, per Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).

Of the group who are set to return, Anunoby had missed the most time — he’s been out the past nine games with a wrist injury he suffered nearly a month ago.

Here are more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Jae Crowder is set to make his season debut for the Bucks on Friday against Miami, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Crowder, who sat out the entire ’22/23 season while awaiting a trade from Phoenix, was working out with Bobby Portis and Joe Ingles in Miami during the All-Star break, per Nehm. Portis has been out for a month with a sprained knee, but he was able to practice before the break and will return to action on Friday. According to Nehm, head coach Mike Budenholzer was optimistic about Khris Middleton returning Friday as well. The three-time All-Star has been dealing with right knee soreness lately, missing the final game before the break. All three players are list as available on the latest injury report, Nehm tweets.
  • However, things aren’t so positive for Giannis Antetokounmpo (wrist sprain) and Pat Connaughton (left calf soreness), who are both doubtful for Friday’s game, Nehm adds. Giannis is day-to-day, while Connaughton was only a partial practice participant Thursday for the Bucks.
  • Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant are both out for Thursday’s matchup in Sacramento due to rest, the Trail Blazers announced (via Twitter). As Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report explains (via Twitter), the Blazers’ flight out of Portland was delayed for several hours on Wednesday due to a snow storm and finally departed late Thursday afternoon.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray returned to action on Thursday in Cleveland after dealing with knee soreness leading into the break, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports Radio. Murray had missed the previous six games. Unfortunately, Aaron Gordon remains sidelined with a rib injury, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Head coach Michael Malone said Gordon’s rib issue is “not where I would wish it would be,” according to Singer, who hears from a source (via Twitter) that the rib isn’t fractured, but it’s still limiting Gordon’s effectiveness.

Nuggets Notes: KCP, Jackson, Murray

Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was disappointed that he wasn’t selected for the three-point contest at All-Star weekend, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link).

I really tried to get out there and show them, it’s a lot of great shooters in this league, and if we’re going to put in the work to be the best, we should be at least rewarded or have an opportunity to showcase it,” Caldwell-Pope said. “That didn’t happen. It’s all good. I’m gonna come back and bring home another trophy.”

Caldwell-Pope is shooting a career-high 45% from deep, which ranks third in the NBA. He said he thought he may have been passed over due to his lack of attempts (he averages 4.3 per game), per Singer.

Head coach Michael Malone raved about Caldwell-Pope’s professionalism and defense, Singer adds.

The reality is, honestly, KCP could get (the Defensive Player of the Game chain) every night,” Malone said. “No, really. We should actually name it the KCP-DPOG and give it to everybody else.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone believes Reggie Jackson‘s playoff experience will be big for the Nuggets, according to Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. “When I think about Reggie, what gives me confidence is, this guy has been there and done that,” Malone said. “(The) 2021 Western Conference finals, where he was phenomenal — just go back and look at the game logs and the productivity and the efficiency. So you’re getting a veteran who understands he’s coming to a really good team. (There’s) role acceptance, role definition.” The veteran guard, who played high school ball in Colorado Springs, was recently signed by Denver after being traded by the Clippers and bought out by the Hornets.
  • At his introductory press conference, Jackson explained why he chose the Nuggets over other suitors. “Great team at the right age right now. They’re playing really good ball. The backup point guard role was kind of open. I figured that, and coming home, was definitely appealing,” Jackson said, per Vinny Benedetto of Gazette.com. “It just all matched up once I sat down and thought about it. I’m just very blessed to be able to go from the sixth team in the West to the best team in the West.”
  • Jamal Murray missed his sixth straight game Wednesday against Dallas due to right knee inflammation, notes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (via Twitter). The team is being cautious with Murray, Malone said, adding that the guard isn’t confident enough in the knee to play yet. Malone didn’t sound overly concerned about it, but the Nuggets aren’t taking it lightly either, according to Wind. “You’re always concerned when a guy misses five-to-six games in a row,” Malone said. The Nuggets don’t play again until next Thursday, so we’ll see if another week of rest will aid Murray’s recovery. The 25-year-old missed all of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Hyland, Wolves, Thunder

Asked after Thursday’s win over Golden State about Nuggets players being willing to sacrifice individual opportunities for the sake of team success, Jamal Murray suggested that’s an important reason why the 37-16 Nuggets are tied for the NBA’s best record, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“We’re a championship team,” Murray said. “All that stuff, not being happy, has gotta go out the window or else we’re not going to win. It’s nice to have a coach that knows that and knows what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Murray’s comments could be interpreted as a dig at fellow guard Bones Hyland, who is reportedly on the trade block due in part to unhappiness about his role. However, according to Singer, Murray was talking more about teammates like Vlatko Cancar, whose commitment to doing what’s best for the club hasn’t changed even as his playing time has. Murray, who referred to Cancar as “selfless,” clarified on Saturday that he wasn’t taking any shots at Hyland, tweets Singer.

“It’s tough for Bones, man … No one wants to be in this position,” Murray said of his teammate, who has been a DNP-CD for Denver’s last two games as trade rumors swirl. “… He’s doing his best. Me and him are cool, we don’t have no problems. Just trying to keep him in good spirits and know that his time’s coming.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone also weighed in on Saturday on Hyland’s status as a trade candidate who has been out of the rotation this week. “It’s a real sensitive area for everyone involved,” Malone said, per Singer (Twitter link). “… Just trying to give him some space, but also let him know, yes, this is a business, but we also care about you. …. I put myself in his situation, and it’s not easy.”
  • In a Q&A with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the Timberwolves have had “varying degrees of discussions” about contract extensions with D’Angelo Russell, Naz Reid, and Jaylen Nowell, and view all three players as “very important” to the team. Connelly also admitted he doesn’t particularly enjoy trade season. “The whole idea of trading guys is kind of gross,” he said. They’re human beings, not assets.”
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic checks in on the Thunder‘s rebuilding process, which has been progressing ahead of schedule. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s emergence as an All-NBA caliber player has been the driving force behind Oklahoma City’s relative success (the team has surpassed its win total for each of the last two seasons with 30 games still to play), Slater notes that Josh Giddey has been a capable “co-pilot” and the team is putting together an impressive defensive-minded supporting cast.

Northwest Notes: Reid, Anderson, Murray, Olynyk

Naz Reid‘s role entering 2022/23 was uncertain, but the fourth-year center has once again proven to be a valuable bench piece for the Timberwolves. The 23-year-old is set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, and at least three teams — the Clippers, Nuggets and Nets — have reportedly inquired about him on the trade market.

Head coach Chris Finch says Reid’s game has drawn praise around the NBA, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

He’s got a lot of skill offensively. Underrated rim protector with his shot blocking,” Finch said. “He’s a heck of a story, having been an undrafted guy, remade his body, developed confidence, excellent system fit. Really a modern center now, a modern big.

As for the specifics or any of the chatter, I don’t know, but I can tell you he has won a lot of fans around the league and a lot of other coaches and people I’ve talked to really like him.”

Reid says he’s focused on basketball and hasn’t been bothered by the trade rumors, Hine adds.

Whatever happens is going to happen for the better,” Reid said. “I just try to play basketball, focus my mind on basketball and not so much what’s going on outside of basketball. I mean, hopefully everything goes full circle and comes the right way.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves signed forward Kyle Anderson to a two-year, $18MM deal in free agency, and his addition “has been nothing short of season-saving,” writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski notes, Anderson’s versatility on both ends of the court and terrific game-sense have been critical for a team that has often lacked “poise and patience.” Through 40 games (25 starts, 26.5 MPG), the 29-year-old is averaging 8.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .498/.439/.775 shooting. He is typically a low-volume outside shooter (1.4 threes attempted per game), but the assists and 3PT% represent career highs.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has rounded into his old form after a slow start, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Murray, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, has averaged 20.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.4 APG and 1.0 SPG on .471/.405/.863 shooting over his past 21 games (34.6 MPG), a stretch in which the Nuggets have gone 20-5 (2-2 without Murray). Renowned for his inspired play in the Orlando Bubble in 2020, the 25-year-old says he wants to exceed that level to quiet questions about whether he’s fully “back,” Singer writes. “I can’t control (the comparisons),” he said. “That wasn’t even the best. That’s just the best I’ve shown. I know that there are more levels to my game than that.”
  • Jazz big man Kelly Olynyk will be available for Saturday’s matchup with Dallas, tweets Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Olynyk missed four games with a left ankle sprain last month, returned for seven games, and then re-injured the same ankle on January 8. He has missed the past eight games with the injury.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Porter, Murray, Schedule

Nikola Jokic returned to action on Tuesday after missing two games due to left hamstring tightness and looked like his usual self, posting a 25-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple double in a one-point win in New Orleans. However, the Nuggets star was sidelined again on Wednesday in Milwaukee, ruled out due to hamstring tightness.

According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), Jokic’s absence on Wednesday appeared to be simply precautionary on the second night of a back-to-back set. The two-time MVP took part in pregame warmups prior to tip-off on Wednesday, and there was no indication that he aggravated his hamstring injury in his return on Tuesday.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. missed a third consecutive game on Wednesday for personal reasons. He has been out since word broke on Sunday that his younger brother, University of Denver sophomore guard Coban Porter, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide and reckless driving, as Shelly Bradbury of The Denver Post details. Coban Porter crashed into another car around 2:00 am on Sunday morning and the driver of the other vehicle died at the scene. Police alleged the 21-year-old ran a red light before the collision and smelled like alcohol and was slurring his words following the incident.
  • Jamal Murray has averaged 21.6 PPG on .477/.449/.905 shooting over his last 16 games, but there are still moments when he doesn’t feel all the way back from the ACL tear that cost him all of last season, he admits to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Examining Murray’s journey back from that injury and the Nuggets’ chances of winning a championship, Amick suggests that the 25-year-old guard may represent the key to Denver’s title hopes.
  • What should have been a showdown between two recent MVPs on Wednesday turned into a bit of a dud when the Nuggets sat Jokic, Murray, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back. Head coach Michael Malone expressed some disappointment that the NBA didn’t “set this game up to be a little bit more of a marquee matchup,” but added that he sympathizes with the schedule-makers, according to Singer of The Denver Post. “The league has an impossible job,” Malone said.

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Jokic, Murray, Booth

Aaron Gordon has emerged as a potential All-Star by simplifying what he does on the court, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Singer notes that the change began when Gordon was dealt to the Nuggets in 2021 and Nikola Jokic told him that the fadeaway shots he had been taking in Orlando were a “last option” with his new team.

Instead of trying to force his production to match his athletic gifts, Gordon has been content to find his role in an offense that has become the best in the league. He’s shooting a career-high 59.3% from the field this season and taking advantage of the opportunities that playing alongside Jokic creates.

“If I need to hit threes, I’ll hit threes,” Gordon said. “If I need to post-up, I’ll post-up. If I need to make plays, I’ll make plays. If I need to just rebound and do dirty work and play defense, I’ll do that. I’m here to do anything that I can to help this team win a championship, to help Joker win a championship, to help Jamal (Murray) win a championship, to help Michael Malone win a championship. That’s it. Winning is the end all, be all, so I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jokic missed Friday’s game due to tightness in his left hamstring, according to an Associated Press report. He also sat out a game last week with a right wrist injury and is considered a game-time decision for Sunday’s contest with the Thunder.
  • With Jokic unavailable, Murray posted his first career triple-double in leading the Nuggets past the Pacers, per Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Murray appears to be fully recovered from the ACL injury that cost him all of last season, and he’s putting up numbers similar to what he did before the surgery. “He’s already had such a storied career here as a Nugget and everything he’s been through, so it’s very cool to see that,” said acting coach David Adelman, who is filling in while Malone is in health and safety protocols. “If Jamal is not in the conversation (for making the All-Star Game), then you don’t value winning.”
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports talks to Calvin Booth about how he went from being a journeyman player to general manager of one of the NBA’s best teams.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Clarkson, Markkanen, Murray

Rudy Gobert hasn’t made a smooth transition to his new team after the Timberwolves acquired him in an offseason trade, but his performance Friday indicates that things may be turning around, writes Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. Gobert posted 25 points and 21 rebounds and scored on six lob dunks, showing that he’s building a connection with his teammates.

“I try to just be in the right spot,” Gobert said. “Make it easy for them. And those guys have been getting better. A lot of guys [had] turnovers trying to throw me the ball earlier this season. And, every night, that’s going to happen here and there. But I really try to reward them by finishing those plays and being in the right spot.”

The Wolves talked a lot after Friday’s game about how long it takes to get used to a new teammate after a major personnel move. Kyle Anderson, who’s also in his first season in Minnesota, said he studied film of Joe Ingles passing the ball to Gobert when they were together in Utah.

“You just have to trust him,” Anderson said. “I mean, it’s hard. It is a lot of pressure on someone to come into a new team and be good in October and November. Like, that’s rare. So I think he’s getting his rhythm in the pocket. We’re starting to trust him more and he’s making the right play.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic has confirmed a report by Marc Stein that the Jazz and Jordan Clarkson have discussed a contract extension. In a series of tweets, Jones cites “mutual interest in moving forward” and states that negotiations are expected to continue. Sources tell Jones that the team views the 30-year-old Clarkson as young enough to be part of the rebuilding process.
  • In his first season with the Jazz, Lauri Markkanen has turned into the player the Bulls were hoping for when they traded for him on draft night in 2017, says KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Utah visited Chicago tonight, and Markkanen said he always looks forward to returning to his first NBA home. “I think I’m a better player than I was a couple years ago when I was here and I’m just getting more mature. And then being in the right system utilizes my strengths,” he said. “Being on the move is getting me to my right spots. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do this stuff earlier on.”
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is getting to the point where he’s not afraid to test his surgically repaired ACL, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Murray turned in a vintage performance Thursday with 13 first-quarter points. “For the most part, I’m just playing out there,” he said.