Even before viewers began to take seats at the Ball Arena and 45 minutes before TNT kicked off live national television coverage, two beams of hope could be found in this winter of Nuggets discontent as devastating injuries surrounded the championship-seeking squad. shaken by the COVID Protocols and frustrated by the large losses.
Defender Jamal Murray and striker Michael Porter Jr. underwent one-on-one training this Thursday night with mid-range jump shots at opposite ends of the court, at one point breaking the nets for 19 of 20 shots. … line.
There’s reason to believe he’s not dead yet, guys.
While Denver are heading into the middle of a confused, wacky NBA season struggling to stay above 0.500 despite the best efforts of center Nikola Jokic as MVP, this team could have brighter days just in time for the playoffs.
With Murray still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury and MPJ undergoing back surgery in December, there are no guarantees. But anyone who has watched them sweat on that winter night has reason to be optimistic.
Don’t be surprised if Murray and Porter are back in shape to play for the Nuggets by April 1st.
“I know that all our fans think we should be 40-0. This is its nature. I understand, ”said Nuggets coach Michael Malone before the Nuggets beat Portland 140-108 to improve their record to 21-19.
“But for us to be where we are now, sixth place in the West, with everything we have to do with? And if we remove the second and third best players of any team, in our case Jamal Murray and Michael Porter … “
Malone went on to speculate that reserve players PJ Dozier, Marcus Howard and Vlatko Kankar were also kicked out due to setbacks.
All these injuries?
“Crazy,” Malone said.
It’s enough to drive us all crazy, maybe even give up hope of the trash heap and wait until next year.
Do not do this.
In times of COVID, we’ve wasted too many months hiding under the covers and complaining that things will get better someday instead of going out and taking advantage of the day.
With Jokic, who plays the best basketball the league has ever seen, is on your side, the Nuggets have reason to believe they can beat any team in the league on any given night.
Even outnumbered Denver can scratch and scratch the Mavericks, Lakers, Clippers and Timberwolves, claim the fifth seed in the West, and then see how Murray and Porter can help the team in the playoffs. …
During the Blazers prep staff meeting, Malone walked around the room and asked, “Which was more difficult: bubble season? The last season? Or this year? “
Honest answer: All of the above.
“They were all very difficult in their own way,” Malone said. “In a bubble, you’ve been away from your family and friends for 83 days. Last year, the shortened off-season turned into a very tight season with all the test reports. And you also have this season, where I think the biggest challenge for me is literally every day when you don’t know which player or employee will be available. “
A constant companion to every NBA team during these troubled times?
“Angst,” Malone said.
For most of two years, whether we’re talking about sports or life in general, the real winners have been those who persisted in not letting anxiety defeat them.
“We do not say, ‘Woe is me.’ Because this is our reality, and we have to come to terms with it, ”said Malone.
In the sports landscape, it’s tough everywhere. Chauncey Billups, whose accomplishments at George Washington High School and the University of Colorado have made him the greatest national legend in state history, is a rookie coach for the Blazers trying to win without defenders Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, two of their best players.
“Hey, who are my Broncos going to hire as coach?” Billups said, trying to change the subject.
Do you know what helps grown men cope with dark winter nights filled with illness, injury and insecurity?
“Hugs,” Malone said, addressing his inner Ted Lasso.
The Nuggets would rather be cautious than rushing MPJ or Murray back to the court. The road to recovery from serious injury can be long, winding, and full of potholes.
Swinging the jumpers alone in pre-match practice is far from being successful in the sixth playoff game against the Jazz or Warriors. But for Murray and Porter, this is more than a dream.
For Denver, the real challenge this season is not to get distracted or upset about anything outside of their control. Every small step forward from Porter and Murray brings the Nuggets closer to becoming a team no one wants to play in the playoffs.
“We have to take care of our home,” Malone said.