The Nuggets’ championship chances collapsed with Jamal Murray.
The Bubble Blaster of last season’s playoffs won’t even get to play this postseason.
“Torn ACL” is one of the cruelest terms in all of sports.
Murray was diagnosed with the serious left knee injury Tuesday, and the team announced he will be out indefinitely — which, translated, means until sometime next season.
With the advancement of modern medical treatment, most athletes are able to return to action in a full year or maybe two months earlier. In some cases, however, they never regain their extremely high level of physical ability and mobility.
Doctors of the famed Steadman Hawkins clinics in the Denver Tech Center and Vail have performed thousands of torn ACL operations on professional and amateur knees. Photos and posters of superstars, including many who excelled for Denver pro teams, hang on the clinic walls.
The 24-year-old Canadian point guard must undergo surgery, then a long, intense recovery rehabilitation.
Best thoughts and hopes and wishes, Jamal, from Coloradans and NBA fanatics. It’s a damn shame for the young man.
With only 50 seconds remaining of the 48 minutes in the Nuggets-Warriors game Monday night in San Francisco, Murray was trying to bring his team back from a seven-point deficit to an improbable victory. He drove down the left side of the lane, jumped, and without any contact from the opposition, landed on the baseline under the basket and writhed in agony while clutching his left knee. The accident was freak, and the injury seemed severe to the national ESPN audience.
Trainers and coach Michael Malone rushed to Murray, and players on both sides gathered close by. When a wheelchair ride to the locker room was offered, Murray refused. Instead, with help and without putting weight on the damaged left knee, he skipped away from the court.
The game soon was over, and so were the Nuggets’ great expectations.
The betting odds on the Nuggets’ winning the NBA title dropped immediately Tuesday from 14-1 to 25-1.
The Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals because of Murray’s presence in the bizarre bubble experience in Orlando, Fla. The Nuggets won’t advance that far again because of his absence.
The Nuggets’ Big Three of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Murray, with a strong supporting troupe, has been abridged.
The original Nuggets were born in 1948, but no Denver pro basketball team ever has won a championship. But, after the run last season when the Nuggets overran the Jazz, then the Clippers, in amazing seven-game series, the Denver franchise was optimistic, particularly because of MVP favorite Jokic’s remarkable season, the emergence of Porter, the acquisition of Aaron Gordon and an improved defense and confidence.
The Nuggets had their own March Madness, which actually started Feb. 27 and ended April 9 as the Nuggets triumphed in 17 of 20 games, including eight in a row before finally losing at home to the Celtics and Monday against the Warriors.
Murray had missed four straight with a sore knee. Was that discomfort a precursor to and cause of the injury, as we might speculate, or did he return too soon. Or had it nothing to do with the tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, which stabilizes the knee joint? Nobody’s saying.
Now, the Nuggets must rely in the backcourt on Monte Morris — who recently missed 11 games with a quadriceps strain — and Facundo Campazzo and PJ Dozier. All three have produced flashes, but can they be the whole of their parts? Maybe, but none totally can replace Murray, his points, his assists, his picks-and-rolls and his leadership.
The real examination will come in May when the Nuggets play back-to-back games in Los Angeles against the Clippers and the Lakers, meet the Jazz in Utah and host the Nets. On the positive side, the Nuggets could keep the fourth-place position and a home-court edge in the first round and win a dozen of their final 18 games. On the negative side, minus Murray, the Nuggets could slip to seventh and be forced into that ludicrous play-in tournament.
The Murray-less Nuggets won’t be as potent as four or five teams in the West and three in the East.
They require an Old Testament-type miracle or a new testament of team togetherness.