Nuggets guard Jamal Murray spent the shortest offseason of his young career trying to find a way to be better at both ends of the season.
Denver coach Michael Malone shared that his fourth-year guard has All-Star ambition . To get to Chicago for the Feb. 16 exhibition between the NBA’s best, Murray needs to be more productive from the outset, and Malone brought printouts to a postseason meeting to back his point. Murray’s career numbers in points per game (11.8), assists per game (2.9), offensive rating (100) and defensive rating (108) are lower in October than any other month, per basketball-reference.com.
“He wants to be an All-Star,” Malone said Tuesday after the team’s first training camp session at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. “I said, ‘Well, All-Stars don’t play this poorly in October into November. They bring it every night, and they produce every night.’”
Murray also wants to be at the top of his game as spring turns to summer with the team looking to build on last season’s playoff run.
“I just wanted to take care of my body, knowing it’s going to be another long season going into May and June,” Murray said. “My body’s gotta be fresh. I don’t want to have nagging injuries here and there; I don’t want to be sitting out games, so it’s just kinda getting myself a little more rest than usual but keeping in shape during the whole summer. I think that worked out for me. Now it’s grind time. Now it’s go time, so I’m full throttle.”
Film study seemed to be a way to accomplish both goals. Murray said he watched each game from last season again with a special emphasis on the 14 playoff games against San Antonio and Portland.
“I watched all the playoff games over like four times. I watched them with my dad, and I watched them with coaches,” he said.
“That was my training so I think now I’ll be able to pick my spots a little better.”
To get ready for training camp, the Nuggets watched a video Monday showing the Trail Blazers celebrating on the Pepsi Center floor after a 100-96 win sent Portland to the Western Conference finals. Murray, who went 4 for 18 from the field and missed all four of his 3-pointers that day, likely needed no reminder.
“We should’ve won that game, could’ve won the game,” Murray said. “All we can do about it is go back the next year and try and do better. That starts right here, starts the first day of the season.”
The "Blue Arrow" went on to mention that last year’s success guarantees nothing this season after the dynamics of the conference were shaken up by an offseason that saw Kawhi Leonard and Paul George team up for the Clippers, Anthony Davis join LeBron James on the Lakers and Golden State and Houston bring in All-Star guards D’Angelo Russell and Russell Westbrook, respectively, via trades.
Jerami Grant figures to be the Nuggets’ most impactful addition after Denver sent its 2020 first-round pick to Oklahoma City in a trade. Murray’s reading of the game seems to be what stands out most to the versatile forward in his short time with the team.
“He does a great job of commanding the pace, of slowing it down or speeding it up depending on how the game is going,” Grant said.
Murray looked mentally ready to start the season Tuesday. After practice had ended, Murray and Malik Beasley put up some extra shots before going 1-on-1. After that, Murray hit the free-throw line where he couldn’t stomach watching a shot roll in and out without unleashing an expletive everyone in the gym could hear.
“I’d rather just miss it,” Murray said of the near-make. “Don’t tease me like that.”
It was an inconsequential miss Tuesday, but that might not be true for the All-Star hopeful starting three weeks from Wednesday when the Nuggets return to Portland to start the regular season.
Jokic’s brother arrested
Strahinja Jokic, brother of Nuggets’ star Nikola, was recently arrested after allegedly choking and pushing a woman Thursday in a Denver apartment, according to the Denver Post.
The report says Strahinja, 37, is facing a felony charge of second-degree assault and misdemeanor charges for false imprisonment and obstruction of phone service.