Although they’re the favorites in the series, the Golden State Warriors nonetheless face a difficult first-round matchup with the Nuggets. That said, Steph Curry and Co. are getting off easier than they might have as Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. are unlikely to suit up for Denver.
Murray’s continued absence is particularly fortunate for the Dubs. During his last playoff run in 2020, he averaged a team-best 26.5 points per game while adding 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
There are some that have been holding out for a surprise return from the five-year pro. But Nuggets coach Michael Malone has tempered those expectations.
“I would lean more towards him being doubtful at this time,” Malone said this week, via the Denver Post. “But I haven’t closed that door. We’ll see how this series [against Golden State] goes and how Jamal feels. But zero pressure from me to Jamal. He’s going to come back when he’s ready.”
The whole process has undoubtedly been a frustrating one for Murray, who tore his ACL a full year ago during a game at Chase Center. Of course, Klay Thompson knows better than most what he’s going through, and the Warriors star sounded off on the subject after practice on Thursday.
Thompson Speaks out on Murray’s Mental Hurdles
Thompson and Murray share something of a kinship as they’re both battling back from major injuries. As noted by KRON4’s Jason Dumas, Thompson was actually one of the first people to visit the Nuggets floor general in the hospital after he went down.
So, when the former was asked about his opponent’s continuing struggle, he was able to share some unique insight into the situation.
“Mentally, the hurdles would probably be just taking off and landing, and being free-minded when cutting and running and jumping,” Thompson opined. “You don’t want to revisit that moment where he did tear that ACL, so you do a lot of mental training and you talk to somebody. You talk to a lot of people, actually.”
Although Nuggets president Tim Connelly has said that Murray is in the “red zone of recovery,” those last few hurdles are clearly still standing. When Murray does finally clear them, though, Thompson expects to see the same old flamethrower back on the court.
“I know Jamal has an incredible future in front of him and, whether he comes back Saturday [for Game 1] or the beginning of next season, I think everybody expects him to start where he left off — just being one of the better guards in the league.”
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Warriors Rookie Class Receives High Marks
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley just put out his grades for every NBA team’s 2022 rookie class and, unsurprisingly, the Warriors received high marks. The hoops pundit gave the Dubs’ fledglings a B+ grade, largely on the strength of Jonathan Kuminga’s performance.
With Golden State locked into a championship chase, it only had so many minutes available to the freshmen, but Kuminga found ways to maximize his opportunities. His youth and inexperience showed at times, but his skill and explosive athleticism often helped him cover his mistakes. He contributed as a role-playing hustler, defender and finisher and still showed glimpses of stardom, topping 20 points in five outings.