Athletes love to tell you that they don’t fear anything but God and taxes, but there are two words that strike fear into even the most courageous heart: non-contact injury.
On Monday, Jamal Murray made his triumphant return to the lineup after missing the last four games with a knee injury. Unfortunately for him, his presence wasn’t nearly enough as the Denver Nuggets spent most of the night getting slapped around by the Golden State Warriors. Then, with the game all but over and under a minute left on the clock, the unthinkable happened:
Murray’s leg buckled as he drove to the hoop and he immediately crumpled to the floor, grabbing his knee. Trainers and coaches rushed to his aid as Murray pounded the floor and screamed in agony, and Murray was eventually able to hobble off to the locker room with the help of Nuggets staffers instead of using the wheelchair that was brought out for him.
It was a gruesome sight to behold.
It was at that exact moment that my thumbs went to work, firing off texts like “Oh shit!” and “I hope to God it’s just hyperextended!” to my homeboys. But alas, a battery of tests that were ran first thing Tuesday morning confirmed the worst: Murray will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
The timing of the injury is particularly devastating. Since acquiring defensive anchor Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline, the Nuggets had transformed into a juggernaut, winning 17 of their last 20 games and seven in a row once Gordon joined the fold. They were primed and ready to give the entire Western Conference the blues in the playoffs and were one of a handful of teams who were early favorites to win the NBA championship in July.
Another unfortunate factor in the timing of Murray’s injury is the fact that it’s occurred at the tail end of this season, which means it’s very likely that he’ll miss significant time next season as well.
So what does this mean for the Nuggets moving forward? For one, their offensive is clearly gonna take a hit. Prior to his injury, the 24-year-old was averaging a career-high 21.2 points per game; which had quite a bit to do with the team ranking fourth in offensive rating prior to last night. So without Murray around to create plays and distribute the rock whenever franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic rests up, expect Gordon, Will Barton, and balling-ass Michael Porter Jr. to soak up those extra shots and carry a much bigger offensive load.
This also doesn’t bode particularly well for Denver in the playoffs, with the Lakers, Suns, Jazz, Clippers, and Trail Blazers all primed for a deep playoff run—if healthy—and the Nuggets looking like a tasty appetizer since they’re short their floor general.
As every other team in the league can attest, unexpected injuries are part of the game. It’s just unfortunate that we never got to see such an exciting Denver squad at the peak of its powers.
Wishing Murray a speedy recovery.