July 23, 2024

Acquanyc

Health's Like Heaven.

Inside Nuggets’ plan to survive season without Jamal Murray

6 min read

Leave it to coach Michael Malone to find a silver lining for one of the most devastating injuries in Nuggets history.

In the immediate aftermath of Jamal Murray’s torn ACL last April at Golden State, emotions were raw. The 24-year-old guard’s season was over in an instant, and a long, grueling recovery period ensured a significant portion of this upcoming season would be missed, too.

Malone sat and cried with Murray during a somber bus ride to the airport, grieving for the player he’d come to love. But given the perspective of an offseason, Malone managed to find comfort while assessing the biggest challenge hanging over his team this season: How will the Nuggets survive without Jamal?

“The good thing is, compared to those 18 games, we had no preparation,” Malone said during the team’s training camp.  “It was ‘(Jamal’s) gone, and we’ve got a game tomorrow.’”

At least this time, they’ll have a plan.

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Losing Murray’s swagger stung. Losing the institutional knowledge he and MVP center Nikola Jokic have accrued hurt even more.

“People forget, it’s not just losing Jamal,” Malone said. “It’s losing the dynamic of Jamal and Nikola. That two-man game is one of the more lethal and efficient, especially in closing time, two-man combos in the NBA.”

Jokic was non-committal when asked what it’ll be like not to have Murray on the court in crunch time this season.

“We will see when we have a close game how we’re gonna do it,” he said.

The Nuggets may not be able to replace Murray and Jokic’s devilish two-step, but it’s not as if the rest of the roster is incapable of elevating their play. If the offense still flows through Jokic (a decent bet), then there are two other swing pieces likely to determine the course of the Nuggets’ season.

“I really feel that Nikola’s going to play at an MVP-level once again,” Malone said. “It’s going to come down to Michael Porter and Aaron Gordon. Are they willing and capable of playing at a high level every single night?

“If they’re able to do that, we’ll be able to weather the storm while Jamal Murray’s out. If we’re not able to do that, then it could be a really tough year.”

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