LAS VEGAS – Ask anyone within the Nuggets’ organization about Jamal Murray and they’ll tell you: The 20-year-old is one of the most competitive players they’ve ever been around.
So it’s no surprise that Murray is frustrated about not being able to play at the NBA’s Summer League here in Vegas, after undergoing offseason surgery in late-April to repair core muscle-related injuries. The second-year point guard is expected to be 100 percent by the time training camp starts in September, but sitting on the sidelines while the other members of his 2016 draft class are playing, guys such as Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley, is. … well, let’s just call it difficult. Actually…
“It sucks,” Murray told BSNDenver. “I try to take advantage of every opportunity I get when I’m with my team — get to go out there for warmups and just be around them, talk to them, and I just try to be around them and give them as much advice as I can.”
Murray was in uniform and out for warmups prior to Denver’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, but he still won’t be cleared to play while the team is in Las Vegas.
The native of Kitchener, Ontario, who is in his second season, could take the reins at the point for Denver to start the regular season, however. He has been practicing with the team for quite some time as he works his way back into shape.
“I can participate in full practice but my body is still going through a lot of healing right now,” Murray said. “I’m trying to get my conditioning up and I’m still trying to break down all the scar tissue so I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can play.”
Murray is a battler. He played through two sports hernias his rookie season and still managed to average 9.9 points on 40.4 percent shooting, good enough for second-team All-Rookie honors and was the only Nuggets player to appear in all 82 games last year.
For Murray, the rehab is as much of a battle mentally as it is physically. He’s never had an injury that’s sidelined him this amount of time.
“(The rehab) has been good. It’s a long process,” Murray said. “This is the first time I’ve actually been out out. It’s a lot of mental work for me and I’m just so eager to get back out there. I just want to be around my team and everything so its been a lot of fun but I’m very eager to get out there. Once you stop playing for more than a week it takes a toll on your body. My conditioning is probably the biggest thing. It’s hard to lift with all the core stuff so I’m just trying to take my time with it.”
Murray’s been in Las Vegas throughout all of Summer League, but Monday night included appearances from teammates Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Lyles and Paul Millsap, who were all sitting courtside for the loss to Toronto. Harris, Mudiay, and Lyles were floating around Thomas & Mack Center for Denver’s game Sunday against Minnesota but this was the first sighting of Millsap, who reportedly agreed to a contract with Denver at the start of free agency.
Along with Murray, they’ve watched the two players on the Nuggets’ Summer League roster who were with the team last season in Beasley and Hernangomez become Denver’s featured scorers in Las Vegas — expanded roles considering the limited minutes both played last year.
“They all want to win, that’s the best part, they play hard,” Murray said of Hernangomez and Beasley. “I was expected to play so it’s kind of different not having me out there on such a short notice, but they’re doing a great job.”