Early returns for NBA stars… returning

Youth, plus patience and previous track record, equal cautiously comfortable: Jamal Murray

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We haven’t seen Jamal Murray score more than 40 points since he dropped a 50 burger on the Cavs in February 2021. To be fair, he didn’t tear his ACL until a couple of months after that, didn’t have an injury history before the tear, and, at his peak, can score with any guard in the NBA.

He didn’t return to the playoffs last season like a lot of Denver fans had hoped for, but I’d rather not mess with rushing back from an ACL when it wouldn’t have mattered. Thus far, in about 26 minutes per game, he’s still finding his legs and the confidence in them. The Nuggets are 2-2 in games he’s played (they’re 3-2 overall), and he’s shooting 38 percent from the floor, 6 points lower than his career average.

Unless you had money on the Nuggets for the best record in the league, it’s insanely early to worry about him, or his team, though. They have the reigning two-time MVP, and Nikola Jokic essentially doubles as training wheels for Murray’s comeback.

My biggest worry about Denver is its defense, and it’ll take a bit for the seventh-year guard to regain the ability to stick with opposing backcourts. The Nuggets are bottom four in points allowed at 111 per game, and only really have two, maybe three defense-first guys on their roster in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aaron Gordon, and whatever bench player Nugs’ fans think I forgot.

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