NUGGETS

The never-ending Jamal Murray recovery continues to be ridiculous

Jul 18, 2022, 6:06 AM | Updated: 2:57 pm
Jamal Murray...
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Break out the bubble wrap. The Nuggets are once again treating their young star like a porcelain doll.

Last week in Las Vegas, Michael Malone dropped a bit of a bombshell about the upcoming season. The head coach told everyone to pump the brakes on Jamal Murray.

“To start the season, Jamal Murray’s not going to play in every single game,” he said on NBA TV. “He’s not going to play 35 minutes. He’ll play somewhere in the 20s to open the season.”

Um, what? Is this seriously the team’s plan for the guard?

By the time the season starts, it’ll have been 18 months since Murray tore his ACL. In today’s sports world, that’s an extremely long recovery.

At the end of last season, there were rumblings that Murray would return to the lineup. Malone offered to let him play in the meaningless season finale against the Lakers, just to get some court time.

During the playoffs, the Nuggets never officially ruled Murray out. There was always a sliver of hope that he’d come back to help the team against the Warriors.

The guard never returned to the court. Effectively, he and the Nuggets punted on the season.

Some were critical of the decision. But most people saw it as the prudent thing to do. They felt like being 100% ready to go for this season was more important than risking injury in a series against the eventual champions.

Willingly throwing away another MVP season from Nikola Jokic seems wasteful, but there’s some validity in the argument. After all, it’s highly unlikely that Murray would’ve made a difference in the outcome of the series against Golden State.

That said, the only valid reason for the guard to not return was so he’d be ready for the upcoming season. That’s what makes the news about his availability at the start of the season so maddening.

At some point, questions need to be asked. Because something is amiss.

Was there some sort of setback in Murray’s recovery? Are the Nuggets being too cautious? Does the guard even want to play?

That last one will be seen as harsh, but it needs to be asked. An 18-month recovery is pretty ridiculous.

Yes, all ACL injuries are different. But it’s hard not to notice that Broncos wideout K.J. Hamler is playing football nine months after suffering the same injury.

Of course, he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract. Murray made $29.5 million last season despite not playing. He will earn $31.6 million this year regardless of how many games he skips or how limited his minutes are on a nightly basis.

Is that impacting what’s going on? It’s hard to believe that it’s not.

Guaranteed money certainly reduces Murray’s motivation to return. That’s human nature.

And the big money is definitely a factor in the Nuggets decision. They have a lot invested in Murray, so they’re petrified of a re-injury.

Whatever the reason, it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s absurd that Murray won’t be healthy and ready to go at the start of the season.

According to the team, his knee was fine in March or April. But he wasn’t comfortable playing at game speed.

That’s what this summer should be about. Murray should be on the court, playing in actual games.

Instead, he’s being lauded for practicing with Denver’s Summer League team nearly 15 months after initially getting hurt. That’s viewed as some sort of great step.

It’s all part of a never ending story. Murray’s recovery feels like it will go on forever.

Is that on him or the team? No one knows. And no one cares.

After 18 months, it’s inexcusable that he won’t be ready to go for the start of the 2022-23 season. As a result, the Nuggets are poised to waste another season of Jokic’s prime. Their championship “window” continues to close, while a key piece sits on the sidelines.

The spin will be that the Nuggets are being careful with Murray because they want to make sure he’s ready for the stretch run and playoffs. At this point, however, that should be taken with a grain of salt.

If he isn’t ready after 18 months, why should anyone be confident that Murray will be 100% after 24 months? Or 36? Or 48?

That sounds ridiculous. But no more so than Jamal Murray still not being ready to play when next season rolls around.

It’s bubble wrap time in Denver. And it’s beyond absurd.

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The never-ending Jamal Murray recovery continues to be ridiculous