Jamal Murray

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.

Nuggets Won’t Trade Murray In Potential Harden Deal

The Nuggets have reportedly spoken to the Rockets about the possibility of a James Harden trade, but Denver would be unwilling to include Jamal Murray in any offer for the former MVP, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

As Singer explains, Murray’s impressive postseason run during the Orlando restart over the summer underscored why the Nuggets gave him a maximum-salary extension a year ago. It also demonstrated why Denver views the 23-year-old as a long-term franchise cornerstone alongside Nikola Jokic, who – of course – also wouldn’t be available in any Harden discussions.

With Jokic and Murray off the table, the most obvious centerpiece in a potential Nuggets offer would be Michael Porter Jr. The 22-year-old forward averaged 9.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 55 games (16.4 MPG) during his de facto rookie season in 2019/20.

While those numbers don’t jump off the page, Porter’s upside is considerable and he’s viewed as a potential offensive star. Still, it’s not clear how enthusiastic the Rockets would be about a deal built around him — or how many other assets the Nuggets would be willing to include in such an offer. Houston has reportedly been seeking a return that features an All-Star-caliber young player, along with several other assets (young players or draft picks).

[RELATED: Tension Between Harden, Rockets Teammates?]

Denver hasn’t been mentioned as one of Harden’s preferred landing spots, but a report last week indicated that the Rockets had expanded trade talks beyond those teams on his wish list. Presumably, the Nuggets were one of those teams, though it’s unclear if the two sides remain in touch or have engaged in anything beyond exploratory discussions.

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Free Agents, Morris, Murray

Even though the Nuggets‘ magical postseason run came to an end Saturday, the team appears to have a bright future ahead, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. After overcoming 3-1 deficits in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Denver couldn’t do it again against the Lakers, but coach Michael Malone believes the experience in Orlando should benefit his players.

“I think we have something special brewing,” Malone said. “And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing.”

The Nuggets’ hopes for improvement will center around the development of rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the postseason. Porter should be a full-time rotation player next season, and fellow rookie Bol Bol may also have a larger role. In addition, Will Barton will return after missing the entire playoffs with a knee injury.

“I think all great teams and champions have to go through the pains of losing,” Malone said. “And nothing is handed to you in this business. And we’re making steps. We’re moving in the right direction with a great group of guys.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver’s challenge for the offseason will be deciding how to handle free agents Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig and Paul Millsap without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Nuggets hold Bird rights or Early Bird rights on all four players and can go over the salary cap to keep them. However, the team already has $95MM in guaranteed money committed to five players. Marks states that Denver can spend $29MM without paying the tax — that figure drops to $20MM if Grant opts into a $9.3MM salary for next season.
  • Reaching an extension with reserve point guard Monte Morris should be another priority, Marks adds in the same story. Morris has a $1.7MM non-guaranteed contract for 2020/21 that will become guaranteed whenever free agency begins. Marks believes a realistic extension offer would be in the neighborhood of $27MM over three years.
  • Jamal Murray played Saturday’s game with a bone bruise on his right knee and another bruise on his right foot, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The pain contributed to Murray’s off night with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting. “I don’t like to tell everybody what I got. I just like to play through it,” he said. “I was in pain, but it’s cool. I was out there. I was struggling a little bit today.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Malone, Jokic, Grant

The ultra-resilient Nuggets may have changed the course of the Western Conference Finals with a Game 3 victory as Jamal Murray continued to add to his playoff reputation, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Denver’s point guard had 28 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists and hit a pair of late 3-pointers to seal the win, and coach Michael Malone said Murray has reached a new level this season.

“Now I know every night what I’m getting from Jamal,” Malone said. “Last year, we knew what we were getting from Nikola (Jokic), but what kind of game would Jamal have. That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal.”

Murray is thriving in the Disney World environment, averaging 26.6 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game since the postseason began. He told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he has a desire to “change the narrative” surrounding him and his team.

“The most important part (is) the energy I bring,” Murray said. “When I’m talking to my teammates, being the vocal leader, going up and down, pushing everyone, they tend to follow. It was fun to see them have a lot of fun today like they did.  We came up with the win. Hopefully we can keep that play up.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Dejan Milojevic, Jokic’s former coach in Serbia, always believed the big man would succeed in the NBA, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “There are many great players in the NBA league — superstars — but not many are making their teammates better,” Milojevic said. “That’s all that Nikola ever wanted. He enjoys passing more than scoring. That’s what separates him — the creativity.”
  • Jerami Grant, an unrestricted free agent this fall, has been making a difference for the Nuggets in the playoffs, observes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. At 6’8″ with a 7’3″ wingspan, Grant has the versatility to guard several different types of opponents. He is affecting LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the conference finals, just like he bothered Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the previous series. “Jerami, he’s been great for us, and we ask a lot from him,” teammate Monte Morris said. “He starts guarding LeBron. We know how (tough) LeBron is. He’s exerting so much energy on defense, you know, it was good to see him get going on offense. It gave us a great boost and it was much needed.”
  • Can the Nuggets stop the Lakers from winning the NBA title? Cast your vote in our poll.

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.