Michael Porter Jr.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Connelly, Gordon

The Nuggets were hoping all season to have Jamal Murray back in time for the playoffs, but he didn’t believe his surgically repaired ACL was strong enough to take the risk, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Meeting with reporters Friday in the wake of Denver’s first-round exit, Murray explained that he hadn’t recovered enough to feel comfortable on the court.

“I remember saying at the beginning of my rehab, I want to come back when I’m 100 percent and not 85,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m 85 right now. I know I can go get a bucket. But in terms of the intensity of the playoffs, I’m just not there yet.”

Murray, who suffered the injury last April, was cleared to participate in five-on-five practice about four weeks ago. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team monitored Murray’s progress closely and made a “collective decision” to keep him out of action.

“We knew specifically with Jamal’s injury that the timeframes can be all over the place. We’ve done all the studies and it can be anywhere from X to Y. We didn’t want to put a firm timeframe on it,” Connelly said. “As he started to feel better and better, we didn’t want to be too definitive because we didn’t want to mislead anyone in this room. As the year progressed and we got into the postseason, I thought it would be irresponsible for him to enter that level of competition.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. expressed a similar sentiment, saying even if he had tried to play, he couldn’t have helped much, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press. Porter was limited to nine games this season and never returned after having lumbar spine surgery in December. “On one leg and stand in the corner and shoot threes,” Porter responded when asked if he could have played. “Would I have been at my best? I definitely would not have been at my best. At that point, it’s just thinking long-term versus short-term.” Porter adds that he and Murray encouraged each other through the rehab process to not try to rush back from their injuries.
  • After taking a gamble by giving Porter a max extension before the start of the season despite his history of back issues, Connelly will be under pressure this summer to find some help for Nikola Jokic, observes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • Aaron Gordon bounced back strong after poor performances in the first two games of the series, notes Matt Schubert of The Denver Post. Although Gordon might be miscast as the second option on a title contender, he showed promise that he can contribute once Murray and Porter return, Schubert adds.

Tim Connelly Discusses Nuggets’ Roster, Future

Following the team’s first-round exit at the hands of Golden State, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly discussed a number of topics on Friday at his season-ending press conference, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Connelly said signing Nikola Jokic to a super-max extension this summer is a top priority.

It’s a pretty big (priority),” Connelly said. “… There’s nothing more important, organizationally, than to make sure Nikola stays here as long as he wants to play the game.”

Connelly also reflected on giving Michael Porter Jr. a five-year, maximum-salary extension prior to the 2021/22 season. Porter appeared in just nine games this season and clearly wasn’t himself prior to being shutdown and undergoing lumbar spine surgery in December, his third back surgery since 2017.

You analyze everything. Oftentimes the best indicator of future health is current health,” Connelly said. “Unfortunately, he had the injuries he dealt with this year. The previous couple years going into that contractual negotiation (last summer) we felt pretty good about it. Certainly his numbers were reflective of a guy that you’re going to have to give a lot of money.

“Hindsight is 20/20. I think we looked as much as we can. We’ve tended to be a team that rewards guys earlier instead of getting to the marketplace. We’re really looking forward to him being fully healthy, and I know he’s working his butt off to achieve that goal.”

The president said the reason the team never officially ruled out Porter or Jamal Murray for the season was because only the players knew how they felt: “It’s their body. … Whenever there’s an injury, the player has to have the loudest voice.”

Denver never applied pressure for either player to make a return if they felt they weren’t ready, Connelly added. Both players confirmed to the media that they were aligned with management’s thinking, Singer notes. Murray, who missed the entire season after suffering a torn left ACL last April, said he’s “not even sure if he’s 85% right now,” according to Singer (Twitter link).

Here are some more quotes from Connelly, courtesy of Singer:

  • Connelly said the small forward position and wing defense are areas that need to be addressed in the offseason. “Whenever you lose you have to be extremely self-critical and analyze areas where we’re not where we need to be. Losing Mike (Porter) was really big, but losing PJ Dozier, that was really two guys, all our depth at the small forward position, so we had to play some pretty wonky lineups. … I think it’s pretty evident where we need to get better.”
  • Connelly on DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, who’s an unrestricted free agent: “Boogie was fantastic. He brought a ton. … He helped stabilize that second unit.” The team plans to talk to Cousins about his future soon, Singer tweets.
  • Denver wants to retain two-way player Davon Reed and only decided against converting him to a standard deal (to become playoff-eligible) because it would’ve meant cutting someone else (Twitter link via Singer). “He’s a guy that we’re very high on for the future,” Connelly said.
  • Connelly on the possibility of paying the luxury tax next season and/or in the future: “If the team is good enough, (ownership will) pay accordingly.

Michael Porter Jr. Optimistic For Return In Postseason

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. hasn’t given up on the possibility of resuming play for Denver during the team’s first round playoff series against the Warriors, per Marc J. Spears of ESPN.

“Right now, I’m taking it game by game. I’m not ruling anything out,” Porter said after the Nuggets’ first game against Golden State, a 123-101 loss. “This is a thing I don’t ever want to deal with again, so I’m just taking my time. … I’m playing it game by game. Every morning I wake up and I know I’m feeling good. Every day I’m getting closer.”

Porter has acknowledged that overwork caused the setback he suffered while rehabilitating from his December 1 lumbar spine surgery, his third since 2017. He had initially been expected to return to the Nuggets in March.

The 6’10” forward appeared in just nine games for Denver this season, averaging 9.9 PPG and 6.6 RPG, significant declines from the 19.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG he averaged through 61 contests a year ago. Thanks in no small part to that 2020/21 performance, the Nuggets inked Porter to a five-year, $172MM extension during the 2021 offseason.

Injury Updates: Simmons, Murray, Williams, Kleber

In an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Thursday morning, Brian Windhorst said that there’s a real chance Ben Simmons could make his Nets debut at some point during the team’s first-round series vs. Boston (video link).

“I am told that Ben Simmons is targeting Games 4, 5, or 6 for making his Brooklyn Nets debut,” said Windhorst, who added that he was “taken aback” when he received that information. “My response was, ‘Is he even playing 5-on-5 yet?’ And the answer to that is no, but the hope is by the end of the week he can ramp up to that.

“… It’s a big ask, but I have to say that really for seven (or) eight weeks now, I’ve heard nothing but pessimism on the Ben Simmons front and that has switched dramatically in the last few days.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic has also reported that a first-round return is a possibility for Simmons. When asked on Wednesday about Charania’s report, head coach Steve Nash pumped the brakes a little, telling reporters that there’s still no set timeline for Simmons’ debut. However, Nash did say the three-time All-Star has been making “heavier progress” in the last week, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

“He’s moving more, he’s shooting, he’s starting to move a little bit on the court in a one-on-zero environment,” Nash said. “So definitely positive signs that it’s improving and moving and all those things. But like I said he hasn’t been running full speed or playing against anybody, so still a lot more markers to meet.”

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

  • Jamal Murray‘s potential return from ACL surgery is in the “red zone,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said during an appearance on 92.5 FM Altitude Sports in Denver, meaning a decision will likely be made soon (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports). A first-round return remains possible for Murray, who is still ahead of Michael Porter Jr. in the rehab process, according to Connelly.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said on Wednesday that he hasn’t closed the door on Murray returning in the first round, but “would lean more towards him being doubtful” for the club’s series vs. Golden State, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.
  • Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said he remains comfortable with the four- to six-week timeline the team initially announced for Robert Williams‘ recovery (Twitter link via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston). Williams is progressing well, according to Stevens, but still hasn’t been cleared for contact and has “a ways to go.”
  • Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber missed the last four games of the regular season due to right ankle soreness, but went through a full practice on Wednesday and said he feels “100% better,” writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Nuggets’ Murray, Porter Not Expected To Return For Playoffs

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will both miss the Nuggets‘ final regular season game on Sunday, and sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic they are “unlikely to return to action during the postseason” (Twitter link).

Murray, who hasn’t played since suffering an ACL tear last April, is “very close in his process,” Charania adds. Murray will be permitted to make the final decision on when he’s ready to return, and Charania notes that both players have full support from the entire team.

Charania cautions that neither Murray or Porter has been officially ruled out, suggesting their status could change if they make significant improvement.

In response to Charania’s report, Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets that Murray was telling people on Thursday that he “did not know” whether he might be ready for the playoffs. Singer adds that Murray teased making a statement to reporters at today’s practice, which was taken as a sign that he may soon have positive news to share.

Murray was having a career-best scoring season at 21.2 PPG when he suffered the injury nearly a full year ago. There have been hopeful reports regarding his status in recent days, but no firm indication on whether he’ll attempt to take the court in the playoffs.

Porter played just nine games this season before undergoing lumbar spine surgery in November. He reportedly suffered a “minor setback” in his rehab process last week.

Michael Porter Jr. Suffered Minor Setback In Injury Rehab

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. suffered a setback in recent weeks during his rehab process following back surgery, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

A source familiar with the situation told Singer that the setback was the result of overcompensation and overwork, while another source said it was “nothing major.”

However, with time running out on the 2021/22 season, even a minor setback jeopardizes the possibility of Porter returning to action for the Nuggets. According to Singer, the team has yet to make a decision on whether or not to shut down the 23-year-old, who had hoped to make it back in March. Porter went through a shooting routine prior to Monday’s game, Singer notes.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports stated during a TNT broadcast last Tuesday that Porter has endured some “ups and downs” during his rehab process, which suggests the setback may have occurred before then. Haynes said at the time that Jamal Murray was closer to a return than Porter, though it remains possible that neither Nugget will play this spring.

Porter, who also missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to back surgery, appeared in just nine games this season before going under the knife again. He hasn’t played since November 6.

Nuggets Notes: Porter, Murray, Nnaji, Hyland

A report in late February stated that Michael Porter Jr. (back) was on track to return to action in mid-to-late March and that there was optimism in the Nuggets‘ locker room about Jamal Murray (ACL) being back in time for the playoffs too. However, nearly a month later, there’s still no clarity about when Porter and Murray might play — or even if they’ll return at all this season.

On Monday, Joe Vardon of The Athletic cited multiple team sources who said Porter is considered more likely than Murray to return this season. According to Vardon, those same sources cautioned that it’s possible neither player will be available for the playoffs.

On Tuesday, during TNT’s broadcast of the Nuggets/Clippers game, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested that Murray’s rehab process has actually advanced further than Porter’s (video link via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports).

“The rehab process hasn’t been too good up to this point for Michael Porter Jr. He’s had some ups and downs,” Haynes said. “As of now, Murray’s ahead. But I’m told both don’t have a firm timeline and the team will follow their lead as to when they feel mentally and physically ready to return.”

Following up on Haynes’ report, Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link) said on Wednesday that he spoke to someone close to Porter and asked about the odds of the forward returning this spring. According to Singer, the answer he received was “very noncommittal,” which doesn’t bode especially well with just two-and-a-half weeks left in the regular season.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Zeke Nnaji is another Nugget whose status for the rest of the season is up in the air, according to Kyle Hendrickson of The Denver Post, who says the forward’s lingering knee injury might prevent him from playing again this spring. Nnaji, who had established himself as a regular part of Denver’s rotation before he went down, has appeared in just one game since February 11. “I don’t know when or if he’ll be back,” head coach Michael Malone said. “I really can’t say because I did not anticipate him being out this long. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully, we can get him back. But while he’s out, obviously, everybody else has to step up.”
  • A number of Nuggets players “spoke up and aired their grievances” following Sunday’s game against Boston, which was Denver’s second consecutive loss and fourth in six games, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. According to Bones Hyland, center DeMarcus Cousins said the way the Nuggets were playing was “unacceptable.” The Nuggets responded on Tuesday with a win over the Clippers and now have a one-game lead on Minnesota for the last guaranteed playoff spot (No. 6) in the West.
  • Sean Keeler of The Denver Post questions why Hyland isn’t part of more closing lineups for the Nuggets, arguing that the rookie has shown an ability to play big in big moments.

Jamal Murray To Practice With Grand Rapids Gold

The Nuggets have assigned injured guard Jamal Murray to their NBAGL affiliate club, the Grand Rapids Gold, to practice with the team, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).

The odds of Murray playing at all this season had been considered tenuous recently, so any movement on this front has to be encouraging news for Nuggets fans. He is expected to return to Denver following Grand Rapids’ practice on Saturday.

Wind adds (via Twitter) that the Nuggets will assess Murray following his workouts with the team’s G League affiliate and decide how to move forward with the 6’3″ vet’s recovery timeline after that. According to Wind, Denver’s other injured star, small forward Michael Porter Jr., has yet to join the Gold for a workout.

Murray was enjoying a breakout season during 2020/21 prior to his ACL tear, notching a career-best 21.2 PPG on .477/.408/.869 shooting, plus 4.8 APG, 4.0 RPG and 1.3 SPG through 48 games.

With Murray and Porter shelved, reigning 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic has shouldered a massive burden this season for Denver. The Nuggets have remained very competitive with their All-NBA center at the helm, sporting a 41-28 record as the West’s sixth seed as of this writing. The team is just 1.5 games behind the Jazz for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round of the forthcoming playoffs. The additions of Murray and Porter this season, should they at least somewhat resemble their pre-injury selves, could help Denver become a legitimate contender this year.

Jamal Murray’s Return This Season “50-50” Proposition

Nuggets fans have been hoping that Jamal Murray will make a strong comeback this season and lift the team to another deep postseason run.

However, it’s not even certain Murray will play in 2021/22, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. Citing two league sources, Singer writes that it’s a 50-50 proposition Murray will take the court this season and that the decision might ultimately be made by the point guard himself.

Murray tore the ACL in his left knee last April and he’s continued to get treatment, test his knee and see how it reacts. The next steps include playing 3-on-3 and 4-on-4, improving his conditioning and getting his heart rate up.

Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who is recovering from another back surgery, could be assigned as soon as this coming week to Denver’s G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich. Porter has been through lengthy rehabs before but this is new territory for Murray and the Nuggets are not sure if he’s mentally ready to play at this juncture, Singer adds.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Porter Jr., House, McLaughlin, Wolves

The Nuggets scrapped their plan to send Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to the team’s G League affiliate in Grand Rapids on Friday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Murray is rehabbing from a torn ACL, while Porter is recovering from lumbar spine surgery.

The pair was set to travel to Grand Rapids, but logistical concerns and the team only being able to practice once nixed the idea — it’s about a two-and-a-half hour flight from Denver to Grand Rapids. It remains possible that Murray and Porter could practice or scrimmage with the Gold down the road, Singer notes.

Denver currently ranks sixth in the West with a 37-26 record. Porter is eyeing a return sometime this month, as we previously relayed, while the Nuggets still hope Murray can return before the playoffs.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest:

  • Rockets coach Stephen Silas expressed support for Jazz forward Danuel House, who played for Houston from 2018-21, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune tweets. House signed three 10-day contracts with Utah before earning a standard deal. “I’m happy for him and proud of him because he’s a contributor for a winning team,” Silas said. “I love him. It wasn’t anything he did wrong (here). I’m happy he landed on his feet.”
  • The Timberwolves‘ coaching staff hesitated to get Jordan McLaughlin into the team’s flow earlier this season, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. McLaughlin has since taken on a bigger role for Minnesota, playing double-digit minutes in his last 16 games. “He kind of fell through the cracks in our player development structure a little bit,” head coach Chris Finch admitted. “So that was on us for the beginning of the season.”
  • Speaking of the Timberwolves, the team’s bench unit has benefited from its off-court chemistry, Hine writes in a separate story for the Star Tribune. Minnesota finished with 74 bench points a 138-101 victory over the Thunder on Saturday, headlined by strong performances from Malik Beasley, Taurean Prince and Naz Reid.