SALT LAKE CITY – Jamal Murray couldn’t assist however smile.
It didn’t matter that the Nuggets had gotten pummeled by an uninspiring Jazz unit, or that he’d been pretty inconsistent in his first sport again since ACL surgical procedure. What else did anybody anticipate after an 18-month layoff?
Murray was completely satisfied to have performed 26 minutes, which amounted to the deepest he’d performed right into a sport since returning, preseason or not. He didn’t thoughts going 5-of-13 from the sector for under 12 factors, or solely managing only one help within the Nuggets’ 123-102 season-opening loss. Though he wasn’t requested this straight, it in all probability didn’t even trouble him that he was a team-worst minus-19 whereas he was on the ground.
“I know I’m smiling,” he mentioned after the sport.” We misplaced. I’ve by no means smiled in a loss earlier than.”
Murray was excited simply to be again on the ground and feeling a raucous Utah crowd. He wasn’t delay by just a few rushed pictures, or split-second reads that went awry. He is aware of these instincts will return with time, which means Wednesday’s contest could possibly be chalked as much as rising pains of an extended season.
“He was not even that bad,” supportive teammate Nikola Jokic deadpanned after the sport.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s loss, Murray was even trying ahead to the mundane.
“I get to go on the plane and watch some film,” he mentioned.
When Murray got here out on the courtroom for his pre-game capturing routine, a gaggle of 25 or so Nuggets followers, many donning his well-known No. 27 jersey, erupted in cheers. He gave them a understanding smile and wave, then proceeded by his warm-up with a broad smile throughout his face. Even the misses couldn’t erase his grin.
When he obtained on the courtroom, veteran Jazz guard Mike Conley walked with him out of a timeout and instructed him how completely satisfied he was to see him wholesome. It was the identical response Murray’s gotten from a half-dozen different NBA gamers in opposing arenas all through the preseason. Outside of the strains, NBA gamers contemplate the league a brotherhood.
Murray mentioned it was good to see former Nuggets guard Malik Beasley, too, although the Jazz capturing guard didn’t have any further phrases of encouragement for his good friend.
“No, he had extra words for us, though,” Murray joked.
When Beasley drained a clutch 3-pointer within the fourth quarter, he spent just a few further seconds dancing on the 3-point line, whereas staring straight at Denver’s bench.
Murray took it in and embraced all of it. Whether it was leaping off his surgically-repaired knee, or sprinting down the ground to contest a breakaway transition alternative, Murray didn’t hesitate. He sprung into passing lanes within the third quarter, when the Nuggets tried to erase a 22-point halftime deficit.
“I wasn’t thinking much out there,” he mentioned.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone noticed nothing from his star level guard that stunned him and cautioned that it might take time earlier than he resembled something near his former self.
“As I’ve been warning everybody, be careful with your criticism,” his coach mentioned.
Murray admitted his conditioning was far off, however even that he became a postgame joke. Given how dangerous the Nuggets’ protection was, and the truth that the blowout couldn’t diminish Murray’s temper, it begged the query whether or not something might’ve dimmed his smile on Wednesday evening.
“It’s just good to see myself out there, honestly,” he mentioned.
And then he joked that the subsequent time the Nuggets lose, perhaps he’d contemplate getting upset.
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