Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was on the ascent in 2020 and 2021. Coming off a stellar bubble playoff performance, Murray was having the best regular season of his career before he suffered an unfortunate ACL injury against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 2021. The 6’3 guard proceeded to miss the entirety of the 2021-22 season to recover from his long-term injury.
Now that he’s back however, Murray hasn’t yet fully recaptured his past level of performance, clouding his mind with overwhelming feelings of self-doubt. Nonetheless, head coach Michael Malone has full belief in Jamal Murray’s ability to bounce back, with, perhaps, a gorgeous stepback game-winning triple over Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers acting as the catalyst for a continued Murray turnaround.
“He asked me ‘are you guys gonna trade me?’ That’s where his mind was, he was like ‘maybe I’m damaged goods, maybe they don’t want me anymore’. And obviously, I quickly shut that down and said ‘Jamal, we love you, I love you. You’re not being traded. You’re gonna come back a better player,'” Malone told reporters, per HoopsHype.
Recovering from an ACL tear is no joke. Not only does it take a while for the injured knee to heal completely, the injured player also has to overcome a significant mental hurdle. Michael Malone knows this, which is why he wants Jamal Murray to know that the team has utmost belief in him as he continues to make his way back from a lengthy layoff.
“The hardest part of doing an ACL is not the injury, it’s the rehab. It’s that journey, and there’s some dark days. […] We’ve never rushed him back. We’ve never put any pressure on him. He’s had our full support throughout the whole process,” Malone added.
Nevertheless, Malone knows that Murray himself will have to make the necessary adjustments, not just with his play on the court, but with regards to how he approaches the game mentally.
“I told Jamal going into this season, ‘you have to learn to take a deep breath and understand that this is still a process. Just ’cause you’re back, you’re going to be a better player in a month, Christmas, All-Star, postseason, as you continue to get right and tonight is a nice step in that direction,” Malone said.
Jamal Murray scored 14 of his 21 points in the final period, still proving to be a crunch-time assassin, perhaps due to his coach’s immense belief in him. And there’s no reason to expect him not to get better, especially with such a great Nuggets environment around him that’s conducive to a productive return from injury.