Jamal Murray

Northwest Notes: Conley, Gay, Murray, Brown

The Jazz‘s five-game losing streak shows how much they miss point guard Mike Conley, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. He’s the only natural point guard on the team and Utah misses his experience and calming presence, particularly in crunch time.

Conley has been out since Nov. 19 due to a knee injury. The Jazz guard in the second year of a three-year contract, though next season’s salary of $24.36MM is only partially guaranteed.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Speaking of Conley, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune passed along an injury update on the point guard (Twitter link). He has progressed to running and has incorporated on-court movements with shooting. He will continue daily rehab and treatment. Another Jazz veteran, forward Rudy Gay, has progressed to on-court ballhandling and shooting, and has participated in parts of practice. He’s been out since Nov. 13 due to a finger sprain on his left hand.
  • On Monday, Jamal Murray looked more like the player he was before suffering a serious knee injury that sidelined him last season. Murray scored 31 points and Nuggets coach Michael Malone says his point guard is capable of even bigger performances, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “I think he’s still got another level,” Malone said.
  • Nuggets swingman Bruce Brown says he’s shown another element to his game this season, Singer tweets. “I’m talking to everyone who thought I couldn’t play a guard. That’s to a lot of GMs in the NBA,” Brown said. Brown, previously with the Nets, is in the first year of two-year contract and holds a $6.8MM option for next season. He has seen some action at the point this season.

Northwest Notes: Prince, Nuggets Injuries, Watson, Grant

Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince said he’s relieved that a grand jury in Texas did not charge him with possession of a controlled substance stemming from a May 19 arrest, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“To me, I wasn’t in the wrong in the first place,” Prince said. “The situation that happened was very unfortunate. Things happen, for whatever reasons they happen. I’m past it now, though.”

Police in Arlington, Texas said after the arrest that they found guns and a vape pen with THC oil in Prince’s car when they stopped him for an expired registration. Possession of marijuana is illegal in Texas, and it also violates state law “to carry a gun while engaging in a criminal offense.”

Prosecutors also dropped the gun charges after the grand jury’s decision, according to a TMZ report.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will likely be without several key players again when they host Detroit on Tuesday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Jeff Green is out with a right knee contusion, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are doubtful due to health and safety protocols, while Aaron Gordon (non-COVID illness) and Ish Smith (right calf strain) are listed as questionable.
  • Rookie Peyton Watson has appeared in just five Nuggets games and is currently playing for their G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Watson, a late-first round pick, is trying to be patient while developing his skills, Singer writes in a separate story. “They know I want it right now and that I’m super, super motivated to take it,” Watson said. “You’ve got to wait your turn. We’re the No. 2 team in the West.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant learned during his first season with the Pistons what it was like being the top scorer for his team. He told current teammate Damian Lillard that he gained a greater appreciation for players with that status, Grant revealed on an interview with The Athletic’s Shams Charania (video link). “I told him I got a lot more respect for people who are the No. 1 option because it’s a lot more difficult than just putting up the numbers,” Grant said.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Nnaji, Pokusevski, Jazz

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is the team’s second star player to enter the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, reports Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).

The 6’3″ point guard has been playing solidly since his return from an ACL tear that kept him unavailable throughout the 2021/22 season. Through 13 games, Murray is averaging 16.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.9 RPG on .429/.355/.767 shooting splits.

Two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic, who entered the league’s coronavirus protocols earlier this week, remains sidelined, and both he and Murray will miss tomorrow’s contest against the Mavericks, Wind adds.

The league’s updated coronavirus policy this season dictates that vaccinated players only need to test for COVID-19 if they exhibit symptoms of the virus. Unvaccinated players are now tested just once a week.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Third-year Nuggets power forward Zeke Nnaji would love more rotation minutes for Denver, and expects to make the most of whatever playing time he gets, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Given the COVID-19 absence of Jokic, the 6’9″ big man has been able to get a bit more run in the short term. “A lot of the coaches said I had a great camp and made some huge jumps, so I’m just looking to apply that out on the court in an actual game,” Nnaji said. “I have to stay ready. I want to make it hard for them to put me back on the bench… I’m also a relentless rebounder and somebody who plays physical inside as well. I can promise that I will bring energy to the court.” Nnaji is averaging a career-low 6.3 MPG on a deep Denver club this year.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski seems to be turning a corner in his development this year, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. The 20-year-old is averaging a career-best 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Fuller adds that Pokusevski has also improved as a more efficient scorer and that the seven-footer seems to noticeably more assertive.
  • Jazz forward Rudy Gay continues to rehabilitate from a third finger MCP joint sprain in his left hand, Utah announced in a press release. The Jazz add that the 6’8″ vet will have his injured finger reevaluated in two weeks. In 12 games this season, Gay is averaging 4.5 PPG and 3.4 RPG across 15.8 MPG.

Injury Notes: Garland, Embiid, Curry, J. Murray, More

Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland, a first-time All-Star last season, has been ruled out of Saturday’s game at Chicago due to his eye injury, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter links). Garland didn’t travel with the team and the “current feeling” is that Garland is “improbable” to play in Cleveland’s home opener on Sunday against Washington, Fedor adds.

Garland suffered a lacerated eyelid when he was inadvertently poked in the eye by Gary Trent Jr. in the second quarter of the Cavs’ 108-105 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday. Fedor reported on Thursday that Garland does not have structural damage and won’t require surgery.

Here are some more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers says that Joel Embiid‘s conditioning was impacted by plantar fascitiis during the offseason, as Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia relays. “He had a little plantar fasciitis before the season started — before training camp — and that took him off his conditioning program,” Rivers said. “And so he’s back on that. But listen, he’s playing with the right intentions. He just didn’t play well, and that’s OK, too. That’s going to happen. We’ve still got to win those games.” The Sixers dropped their first two games of the season, with Embiid looking pretty sluggish. Rivers reiterated that Embiid is no longer dealing with the injury, but needs to regain his rhythm and conditioning.
  • Guard Seth Curry (offseason ankle surgery) is likely to travel with the Nets for their two-game road trip next week, but “probably” needs more practice time before he returns to action, head coach Steve Nash said on Friday (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who played his first regular season game on Wednesday since suffering a torn ACL in April 2021, is out for Friday’s game against the Warriors, head coach Michael Malone told reporters (Twitter links via Kendra Andrews of ESPN). According to Andrews, Malone said the Nuggets are resting Murray because Friday is the first of a back-to-back. However, that might not be the case for the entire season, Malone added.
  • No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray will make his debut on Saturday against the Clippers after being a full participant in Friday’s practice, a source tells ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. Murray was fully cleared by the Kings after exiting the health and safety protocols, Spears writes.
  • Dillon Brooks (left thigh soreness) and Ziaire Williams (right knee soreness) missed their second consecutive games for the Grizzlies on Friday, the team announced (via Twitter). Memphis won its opener against New York and defeated Houston in game two.

Northwest Notes: Dozier, Murray, McCollum, Lillard, Sexton, Gobert

PJ Dozier will start the season with the Timberwolves’ NBA G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Minnesota waived Dozier, who was on an Exhibit 10 contract, on Saturday as the team pared its roster to the 15-man limit. The former Denver wing tore his ACL last December and didn’t appear in any preseason games prior to being waived. Iowa’s opener is in two weeks.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets lost in their opener and Jamal Murray had only 12 points and one assist in 26 minutes but he was just thrilled to be in action again after missing all of last season while rehabbing an ACL tear, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “I know I’m smiling,” he said. “We lost. I’ve never smiled in a loss before.”
  • Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard signed a two-year, super max extension over the summer and former teammate CJ McCollum believes Lillard wants to establish a lasting legacy in Portland, as he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been so committed to being in Portland to break all the records, show his loyalty to win, and to continue to try and build a lasting legacy,” McCollum said. “I think he’s done all those things. People will say what they want about him, but he really works on his game, and he really cares about the game of basketball.”
  • Collin Sexton had 20 points in his Jazz debut after his final season in Cleveland was cut short by a knee injury. Utah surprised Denver in the opener and Sexton feels his new teammates will continue to open some eyes, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. “We’ve heard a lot about what we are supposed to be,” said Sexton, who received a four-year, $72MM contract in the sign-and-trade transaction. “But, we all have a lot to prove and we all want to embrace the role of being the underdog. We want to come out and surprise some people.”
  • Rudy Gobert said it will be “weird” to face his former Jazz teammates on Friday, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “It’s all love for me,” the Timberwolves center said. “You know, I want to see these guys succeed and I’m sure they want to see me succeed, too.”

Northwest Notes: Murray, Porter, Jazz, Collison

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday about Jamal Murray‘s impending return to the Nuggets‘ lineup, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic attempted to keep expectations in check for his star teammate with a tongue-in-cheek assessment of what he expects from Murray.

“I love to play with him, of course,” Jokic said, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “I know he’s gonna be really bad for the next 20 games, but we’re gonna survive.”

Jokic’s answer wasn’t a serious one, but there’s some element of truth to it, Singer observes. While Murray may not be “bad,” he’s also unlikely to look like his old self right away following an 18-month rehab from an ACL tear. Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets seem to recognize that a return to normalcy for Murray will take time, and don’t want to put pressure on him coming out of the gate.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Michael Porter Jr. knows that he and the Nuggets faced criticism when he went down last fall with a season-ending back injury shortly after signing a five-year, maximum-salary extension, but he remains determined to prove the team made the right call signing him to that deal, as he tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “I’m trying to be the best draft pick Denver’s ever had,” Porter said. “We got a lot of really good players, and my goal is to be one of those guys who they look back on drafting me and they’re very thankful that they took a chance on me.”
  • Asked whether Donovan Mitchell asked the Jazz for a trade before being sent to Cleveland, CEO Danny Ainge declined to say one way or the other, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “You know, I’m not going to even comment on that, just because those are private conversations,” Ainge said. “If he doesn’t want to say it to you … You can keep asking him that question, but I won’t divulge our private conversations.”
  • Former Thunder big man Nick Collison, who worked last season as a special assistant to GM Sam Presti, will be in a new role this year, having earned the title of amateur evaluation scout, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

Western Notes: Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Potter, Liddell, Spurs

Although he didn’t play in the Lakers‘ preseason finale on Friday due to lower back soreness, Anthony Davis will have “no restrictions, whatsoever” when the team’s regular season tips off on Tuesday in Golden State, head coach Darvin Ham said (link via Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times).

Russell Westbrook, who sustained a left hamstring injury in Friday’s game, could “definitely” be available for the opener, according to Ham, but reserve point guard Dennis Schröder likely won’t be, as Turner writes.

Ham said that Schröder’s thumb ligament injury was still being evaluated as of Sunday, and while he’s still considered day-to-day, the ailment may take a little time to heal, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Jamal Murray (hamstring) are both expected to be available for the Nuggets‘ regular season opener on Wednesday in Utah, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barring an unexpected setback, it will be the first time Denver’s two stars have shared the court in a regular season game since April 2021.
  • The Rockets will likely have a handful of players on the injury report to start the season, but head coach Stephen Silas said on Sunday that he’s hopeful rookie Jabari Smith (ankle) will be available for the team’s opener, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Silas added that Garrison Mathews (illness) and Daishen Nix (back) are “close” to being ready too. Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) is the least likely of the group to be available for the opener, Feigen writes.
  • The two-way contracts signed in recent days by Jazz center Micah Potter and Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell both cover two years, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. As our tracker shows, those are the fifth and sixth two-way deals signed this offseason that are for two years instead of one.
  • Noting that the Spurs have had “so many guys over the years” develop their games in the G League, head coach Gregg Popovich said two-way players Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall will likely spend most of their time in Austin this season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’ll spend some time in the G League and play lots of minutes,” Popovich said, specifically addressing Barlow’s situation. “If he was with us right now, he’s not going to get on the court that much, which doesn’t help him develop.”

Western Notes: Huerter, Murray, Jokic, Lewis, Mavs

Kings coach Mike Brown is leaning strongly toward Kevin Huerter as his starting shooting guard, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. Acquired from Atlanta this summer, Huerter is competing with Malik Monk and Terence Davis for the starting nod.

“The more I watch, I just think Kevin might be the right fit at that two-guard spot,” Brown said. “But for me, right now, that power forward spot can be wide open.”

The list of the candidates at the ‘four’ spot includes lottery pick Keegan Murray. KZ Okpala, Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu are the other options.

We have more info from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets got a scare on Friday when Jamal Murray exited early with an apparent thigh injury. However, Murray just dismissed it as a cramp, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “It was frustrating, but it’s OK,” Murray said. “It’s just a cramp. It’s not like it was a pull. Nothing serious. My body hasn’t had this much since training camp, three-hour practices and all that. I guess I’m just adjusting to the workload, that’s all.”
  • Nikola Jokic didn’t even go to Chicago for the game due to a sprained right wrist. An MRI came back clean and coach Michael Malone is optimistic Jokic will soon return, according to Singer“The word back in Denver is that he had a good day,” Malone said. “He’s getting more movement, more function with that wrist. We’ll get home late (Friday), we’ll figure out what the plan is (Saturday). Can he practice? Do we need to hold him out further? Come Monday, we’ll make a decision if he’ll be available for the Phoenix Suns game.”
  • Pelicans guard Kira Lewis continues to progress in his rehab of a torn ACL. He has been cleared for 3-on-3 scrimmages, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Lewis tore his ACL last December and the recovery period for a torn ACL is typically 12-plus months.
  • The Mavericks are playing three preseason games, the fewest of any team in the league, and that’s by design, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd wants to keep his team fresh and healthy for the regular season. “I wanted to see less preseason games just to have the data to see how we handle it,” Kidd said. “A lot of teams are playing four, five or six, so I went on the other side to see if we can play three. … It could be something that we don’t ever do again, or if the players say they like it, it’ll be something we’ll do again.”

Northwest Notes: S. Johnson, Jazz, Murray, Blazers, Thunder

The Jazz are currently carrying 18 players on guaranteed contracts, with non-guaranteed camp invitee Cody Zeller also vying for a spot on the regular season roster, so Stanley Johnson – acquired from the Lakers in August’s Patrick Beverley trade – isn’t a lock to make the 15-man squad. However, head coach Will Hardy liked what Johnson provided to the team during its second preseason game on Tuesday, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

“Stanley really brought a lot of energy and toughness in particular on the defensive end tonight,” Hardy said after the game. “That’s his identity as a player, that’s how he can help our team, is by being somebody who has a massive impact on the defensive end… He’s really handled himself well, all throughout camp, not only with how he’s played, but how he’s interacted with his teammates, and I was really happy for him tonight.”

Assuming they don’t make any more trades before opening night, the Jazz will have to cut four players currently on standard contracts. Besides Johnson and Zeller, Saben Lee, Udoka Azubuike, and Leandro Bolmaro are among the other players whose roster spots may not be assured.

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Given that even the NBA’s worst team only has a 14% shot at the No. 1 overall pick, Tony Jones of The Athletic argues that the Jazz shouldn’t deliberately tank for Victor Wembanyama and suggests that establishing “winning habits” will be a priority in Utah. Given the lack of elite talent on the roster, the Jazz should still finish in the lottery and will be in position to draft a solid prospect even if they don’t land Wembanyama.
  • Speaking to Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link), Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said he and the team had hoped he could return from his torn ACL in time for last season’s playoff series vs. Golden State, but he realized as he was ramping up to return that he still wasn’t mentally ready to play. “Six months later, I’m in a completely different space than I was before,” said Murray, who added that he’s glad he didn’t attempt to return last season.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a closer look at Mike Schmitz‘s decision to leave his job as an ESPN draft analyst for an assistant GM role with the Trail Blazers. According to Vorkunov, Schmitz’s responsibilities in Portland cover more than just the draft, as he’s also getting involved in work related to the salary cap, analytics, and more.
  • The Trail Blazers and Thunder both finished in the lottery last season, and John Hollinger of The Athletic expects that to happen again in 2022/23, despite the moves Portland made to upgrade its roster. Hollinger projects the Blazers to finish at 36-46 and 11th in the Western Conference, while picking the Thunder to be the West’s worst team at 20-62.

Simmons, Kawhi, Murray, MPJ Returned To Action On Monday

Nets guard Ben Simmons, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, and Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. all made their preseason debuts on Monday, returning to an NBA court for the first time in 2022.

Simmons missed all of the 2021/22 season due to a holdout, mental health issues, and back problems; Leonard and Murray sat out the season while recovering from ACL tears; and Porter was shut down due to a back injury last November after playing in just nine games.

In addition to being Simmons’ first game in 470 days, it was also the first time he has suited up for his new team since being traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn. Simmons played 19 minutes against his old team, and while the Sixers beat the Nets by 19 points, the former No. 1 overall pick said he felt “amazing” being back on the court, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said after scoring six points and dishing five assists in 19 minutes. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

Leonard, meanwhile, was playing for the first time since being injured in the second round of the playoffs against Utah in June of 2021. He had 11 points and four rebounds in a victory over Portland in Seattle, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. While Leonard acknowledged that he probably won’t be playing 35-plus minutes out of the gate this season, he – like Simmons – said he was more excited than nervous to get back on the court.

“It was great,” Leonard said. “Just being able to put all that hard work that I did throughout the, 14, 16 months, just able to put it to (the) test and playing against NBA talent, it was good. Just being out there with the guys and talking, I missed it. It was a great experience for me.”

As for Murray, he called his return vs. Oklahoma City – his first game in 539 days – “a lot of fun” and told reporters that he “felt like a rookie out there” (Twitter links via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports and Mike Singer of The Denver Post). He and Porter will need more time to find their rhythm, but both players came out of their preseason debuts feeling good, Singer writes in a full story for The Denver Post (subscription required).

While Simmons, Leonard, Murray, and Porter made their long-awaited returns on Monday, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is poised to do so on Tuesday after missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a broken foot. Kevin Durant said after the Nets’ loss on Monday that having all these stars healthy again is great news for the NBA.

“Being away for a year, you get a lot of anxiety not playing,” Durant said, per Friedell. “I know I did. Just anxious to see how I’m playing, where I’m going to play, what my role is on the team. But as a fan of the game, Kawhi being back is great for basketball, Jamal Murray being back is great for basketball, all the guys that have been out injured and being able to play again, it’s a great feeling seeing them out there.”