The expectation has been that Jamal Murray will be medically cleared to play by the end of the regular season, and that his return was up to him.
The Nuggets’ team doctors may feel differently.
Murray’s return this season is closer to a 50/50 proposition, reports Mike Singer at the Denver Post.
With a month left in the regular season, two league sources described chances of his return at 50-50 at this point. Another league source emphasized the decision on when to return lies with him.
As of now, the Nuggets don’t have a cut-off date for when a return would be impossible, two sources said. Murray and the team are taking it on a day-by-day basis. At this point, Murray is getting treatment, testing his body and seeing how it reacts.
Murray still has to go through practice steps — 3-on-3, eventually full-contact 5-on-5 — to return to the court. If he is not comfortable with that, he should not be back.
The Nuggets sit as the No. 6 seed in the West, 2.5 games ahead of the Timberwolves (and falling into the play-in) with 15 games remaining. Denver would be better with Murray — and also near returning Michael Porter Jr. — back. Having both of those players back fully healthy would make the Nuggets a contender this season.
But if they are going to be just a fraction of themselves, there is no reason to risk further injury. Ultimately, only the player knows his body and can make that call.
Next season the West is going to be a beast. The Suns and Warriors will still be right there at the top. The Grizzlies will be a year older and improved. The Mavericks will still have Luka Doncic and likely an improved group around him. The Jazz will still have an elite core. Now add in the fact the Nuggets will have Murray and Porter to go around Nikola Jokic, and the Clippers will add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back to a core of role players that are better than .500 without them. We are already seven deep — one of those teams is stuck in the play-in. That’s not counting whatever moves the Lakers make this offseason around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or another step forward from Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves. What if the Pelicans get Zion Williamson back and pull everything together. That’s 10 teams already. The West is going to be insane.
That’s when the Nuggets will need Murray at his best. Not this April. If he’s not comfortable, he should wait.