Before last Monday’s game against the Warriors, Jamal Murray sat on the Nuggets team bench, watching his teammates perform their typical shooting routines.
With his head buried deep in his left hand and a ball comfortably seated in his lap, Murray sat there for a long time contemplating who knows what. Perhaps he was contemplating his return. Maybe he was reflecting on the season that was stolen from him.
Nearly 11 months after tearing his left ACL, Murray is getting closer physically to a comeback, although no return is assured this season, league sources told the Denver Post.
With a month left in the regular season, two league sources have described the odds of his comeback at 50-50 at this point. Another league source stressed that the decision to return was up to him.
At this time, the Nuggets do not have a deadline for when a return would be impossible, two sources said. Murray and the team take it day by day. At this point, Murray receives treatment, tests his body and sees how it reacts.
The next hurdles involve playing 3v3 and 4v4, improving his conditioning and increasing his heart rate, but none of that matters if Murray isn’t mentally ready to come back. . It is a decision that only he can answer.
Among his good days, there are still bad ones. The situation is so fluid that it is impossible not to wonder about the scenarios that are going on in your head.
There remains the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, according to one source, that Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will travel to Grand Rapids to expedite their comebacks. It could happen within the next week, said a person familiar with their thinking. Contrary to the original plan, if they were going, it wouldn’t be for just one day.
But comparing their respective injuries is a mistake on several levels. First, Porter has already had two back surgeries and has recovered before. Amid rehab, he has been eager and confident as he approaches his return to court, sources said.
Murray has never experienced anything close to last season’s grind. The mere fact that Porter’s return looks promising has no bearing on Murray’s path. The Nuggets have said it over and over again. Murray will return when he feels ready.
The impact on their potential returns, or even Porter’s, would be enormous. They’ve seen the Nuggets go 12-3 in their last 15 games, punching above their weight for most of the season due to Nikola Jokic’s prolific play. If/when Porter returns, there will be a domino effect on the attacking point that will shake the built consistency of Jeff Green, JaMychal Green and now DeMarcus Cousins minutes.
One of the three will likely be eliminated to make way for the striker. Even if Porter didn’t return, the Nuggets relied on 10-man rotations that would likely be reduced for the playoffs.
And if Murray were to return, there would be an even deeper shake-up of the Nuggets’ foundation. What impact does this have on Monte Morris, who has become more than reliable as the team’s starting point guard? How much of the offense would go through Murray as the team tries to restore their rhythm? Which of the guards – budding rookie Bones Hyland or defensive ace Austin Rivers – gets bumped from the rotation?
After Murray sat back and watched his teammates complete their last-minute preparation, he stood up and splashed some mid-range attempts. He was low intensity compared to previous pre-game practices, and most of his shots didn’t even require jumping. Maybe he’d done more focused training in the team’s private gym, or maybe he’d had one of those bad days where his body just didn’t feel right.
It was impossible to tell what he was thinking as he ran off the field. It was even harder to discern when a comeback might be near.