NUGGETS

The NBA’s best duo is back and can’t wait to get on the hardwood

Sep 27, 2022, 3:30 PM
Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic...
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Nikola Jokic has thrown 490 assists to Jamal Murray in his career, but the first of the 2022-23 NBA season wasn’t of a basketball—it was some grapes.

While Murray was answering questions about his healing knee, the NBA MVP fetched him some fruit at Monday’s NBA Media Day. Murray confidently talked about his readiness to return, and Jokic casually deflected a myriad of questions while he joked about being anywhere but in the room. But the theme of the two was happiness. Gleeful to each be back with their dance partners, for which each has grown so comfortable.

But Murray last played with Jokic in the spring of 2021 due to the point guard’s torn ACL that kept him out of that postseason and the whole of last season. When last healthy, Murray was 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds a game. Or, in other words, a great sidekick to the NBA’s best big man. And the two of yet to play with each other yet, with Jokic just coming back from Serbia, where he competed for the national team.

“We never even work on it,” Jokic remarked.

“Off the court, we call each other here and there but on the court, we just read and react,” Murray said. “We don’t care; whoever has the matchup gets it.”

The chemistry was there off the floor right away. As Murray egged on Jokic as the big man used new English words like “gadgets,” and Jokic heckled Murray.

Jokic was carefree for the entire press conference, speaking off his jokes as “a defense mechanism.”

“He gets mad here and there,” Murray said of Jokic as Nikola cackled.

“That’s so true,” Jokic said.

“He’s just so light with how he deals with everyone and goofy and keeps everyone in a good mood. A blessing in your best player,” Murray said.

“Mindest, his mindset. He was injured, and he was a bit down, not being able to help us. But he’s a competitive guy, and with him back, you see the energy,” Jokic said.

When on the floor together, few teams run as smoothly as the Nuggets. Their last meaningful games together was an incredible stretch of basketball with Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. But their last big moments came in the bubble when each one-upped the other into legendary performances that pushed the Nuggets into the Western Conference Finals, becoming the first team in the history of the NBA to erase two 3-1 series deficits.

Among duos with more than 400 minutes played in the 2020-21 season, only four had a better offensive rating than Jokic and Murray. Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson ranked first, followed by Will Barton and Porter, Murray and Porter and Leonard and Paul George. Jokic and Murray were tallying 122.3 per 100 possession on offense.

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The NBA’s best duo is back and can’t wait to get on the hardwood