Jamal Murray “wants to be back,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters Friday night following his team’s 136-130 loss to Minnesota at Ball Arena.
“Yeah, I mean keep hope alive, like Jesse Jackson (said),” Malone offered during his postgame news conference when asked about fans who still pined for Murray’s return this season.
Teammate Monte Morris sounded even more hopeful.
“His mental (acumen) is there,” Morris said Friday. “He’s ready to get back out there. He’s looked good. He’s dunking and everything, (with) both legs. It’s a matter of time, I guess, but hopefully we can get him back.”
Murray has yet to suit up for the Nuggets since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Golden State on April 12, 2021.
“We’re not shutting down Jamal Murray,” Malone continued. “This is not a black-and-white issue. We’re not running a race with a definitive finish line. Who knows what the seasons going to look like after four games? Are we going to be the playoffs? Are we going to be in the play-in? Who knows? That’s yet to be determined.
“Jamal is getting better every day. Trust me, we all want him back. I want him back. We’re a better team with Jamal Murray.
“And he wants to be back. He’s making great progress. But I can’t sit here and say that he’s going to play any of the last four games. But I also can say that he won’t.”
With four games remaining in the regular season, two against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets have posted a 46-32 record without Murray and with only nine appearances early in the season from Michael Porter Jr. — and none since Nov. 6 — because of back problems that required lumbar spine surgery late last fall.
Friday’s loss pushed the Timberwolves (44-34) to within two games of the Nuggets for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. The sixth seed is the last seed in the bracket that avoids the NBA’s play-in round.
Murray and Porter, Denver’s two best wing players, both worked out on the court at the same time about a half-hour before tip-off Friday, although the tenor of their respective drills were noticeably different.
Murray practiced getting off shots while being defended vigorously and bodied up by Nuggets staff. Porter shot against space and with staffers shagging balls for him.
When a reporter asked Malone as he was leaving the podium if the same “hope” held true for Porter Jr., the Nuggets coach was more succinct.
“No comment,” Malone replied.