Denver (AFP) – Photos taken late in the season were a source of confusion: Jamal Murray taking the floor before games and diving on a surgically repaired knee. Nearby, Michael Porter Jr. launched his smooth long jump after spinal surgery.
They painted a picture of the talented Denver Nuggets in tandem on the cusp of getting back to work. But the stark fact was that they weren’t very close to joining MVP Nikola Jokic on Earth.
Not physically. not mentally. Not competing on the playoff stage where the Nuggets were eliminated by Golden State In five matches.
“We can be the best team in the NBA, when everyone is healthy,” Porter said Friday.
It was painful for Murray and Porter to watch from the sideline down the extension and into the postseason.
Murray estimated he was back at the top by about 85%. Sure, he can dunk, shoot, and drive. But it was other basketball situations that worried him, like guarding, for example, Stephen Curry, bouncing, running through screens or diving for loose balls.
As for Porter, he said he might have played: “On one leg and standing in the corner and shooting 3s,” he cracked. “Would I have been at my best? I certainly wouldn’t have been at my best. At this point, just thinking long term versus short term.”
I understand nuggets. They brought up the idea of going back down the stretch or in the playoffs simply to give them the option when they felt ready.
“When there’s an injury, the player has to have the loudest voice,” explained Tim Connelly, Nuggets’ head of basketball operations.
Murray listened to his knee and how he was feeling even if he was allowed to turn back. He heard from angry fans about sitting outside, too. They wondered why he couldn’t take the floor. He even turned to social media to defend himself.
“They hear the word ‘clear’ and they’re like, ‘Why don’t you play?'” Murray said. “I have some really great days, or no soreness, and I feel like I can go. Then you have the next day right, where it feels like… he hasn’t arrived yet.
“On those good days, I’m on a high horse and really looking forward to the future. But on those slow days, it’s hard to see the future afterwards. It’s hard to plan and tell you how good I am. Uncertainty is hard when you’re not sure how your body will react.”
Same with Porter, who underwent surgery at the University of Missouri and returned later in the season for the 2018 NCAA Championship at “40 or 50% of myself,” he said.
“I don’t think that was the smartest thing looking back,” Porter added. “So I try to learn from that experience and play for the long term.”
Porter has played in nine games this season. He had a relapse in March – he tried to ramp up his rehabilitation too quickly – and decided to get back to the drawing board. He revamped his biomechanics and the way he takes to court to address what might be causing his back problems.
“We can be the best team in the NBA…when everyone is healthy.”
Michael Porter, Jr.
“I try to be very careful and very aware of how I approach this rehab process, because for me it’s all just about health,” Porter said. “I think I can take off from there and spend a lot of time being healthy together.”
Porter had a confidant during his recovery – Murray.
They came close when they went through rehab, a bond they said could move to court next season.
By sitting down, Porter and Murray were also able to see what was required of them upon their return.
“When you’re at it, you’re very focused on what you can do,” Murray said. “But when you sit and watch the whole season, and they have to play differently, it’s like, ‘Okay, I see where I can insert myself and make it easy for everyone. “
Murray knows the perfect possession to push the Nuggets to another level next season.
“Health button,” Murray cracked. Big red button.