Nuggets’ Jamal Murray finally gets his reward after arduous 18-month recovery: “I’m back”


When Jamal Murray stepped onto the court two weeks ago against Oklahoma City in the Nuggets’ preseason opener, it wasn’t long before traces of the old Murray reappeared.

The first two shots he took, both misses, elicited a palpable buzz from a crowd eager to see the Murray they came to adore prior to him tearing his ACL in April 2021.

On the third try, Murray buried a corner 3-pointer as a smile stole across his face. Then, in the final seconds of the first half, Murray sprinted the length of the court, briefly catching the spirit of the same scorer who torched opponents in the NBA Bubble during the pandemic. When he got near the elbow, swerved and launched off his surgically-repaired knee, his buzzer-beater shed months of doubt and unearthed the steely confidence that’s long defined Murray’s game.

For the first time since the injury, he was back in the spotlight, beckoning the crowd to get louder.

“Yeah, we’re back,” he said. “That was checking off boxes. … That was me two years ago, which is obviously I’m still me, but that was the mentality I was in. I’m back. Everybody knows I’m going to go get this bucket, and everybody has the belief that I’m going to go get this bucket.”

Murray has dreamed about his return “since the first day I got hurt.” He’s wondered what his first bucket will feel like and how the crowd will receive him. On Wednesday night at Utah, after a year-and-a-half-long journey that tested his stubborn nerves, he’ll get his reward.


In the raw aftermath of Murray’s ACL tear, after he’d grappled with the magnitude of the injury and wondered aloud if the Nuggets planned to trade him, he started plotting his return.

Shortly after his left knee buckled in San Francisco on April 12, 2021, Murray began calculating a target date.

“When I got hurt, I was like, ‘OK, I know the timeframe, playoffs, I’m gonna come around at the playoffs (in 2022),’” he told The Denver Post. “So I was already, from the moment I got hurt, I was already planning how I’m going to come back. I dreamt about it. I envisioned myself playing.”

Murray tried desperately to realize that goal. He conducted rigorous pre-game workouts prior to playoff games, and, behind the scenes, he played 5-on-5 against team staffers and bench players, including Vlatko Cancar, Markus Howard and Facu Campazzo.

“It would go in waves,” a league source said. “He would not really try to do too much and then he’d score eight, 10 points from a spot. You saw the skill, but all the quick movements and quick-twitch-type things that’s needed to guard guys like Steph (Curry), he wasn’t there with that yet.”

The benchmarks Murray looked for of himself weren’t there, either.

Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver ...
Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets supports teammates during introductions before the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)


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