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Jamal Murray is making his presence felt in the Nuggets-Blazers playoff series despite a torn ACL.
Example A: His preferred sideline viewing angle for Game 1 — standing past coach Michael Malone and almost to midcourt — while barking out instructions and encouragement to teammates at Ball Arena.
“He’s up at half-court … like he’s coaching the team,” Malone said on Tuesday during an Altitude Sports Radio segment. “But I would much rather have to calm Jamal Murray down than to implore him to be involved and active and supporting his group. Yes, we had to calm him down and talk to him. We were getting phone calls from the league about: ‘Hey, you’ve got to calm Jamal Murray down.’
“I think it’s great.”
It seems Murray got the message in Game 2 with a seat on the bench among teammates. But he was still no casual observer.
The 24-year-old point guard joined timeout huddles and often pulled players to the side for one-on-one mentorship. Murray celebrated after each big bucket, talked trash to the Blazers, and made a difference without ever recording a stat.
“His energy, his presence and his positivity are really impactful,” Malone told reporters on Wednesday. “Monte (Morris) is still a really young player in terms of NBA experience. But Facu (Campazzo) is a rookie. Markus Howard is a rookie. Shaq Harrison has played in the NBA, but these are his first playoff games. … A guy like Jamal who has 33 games of playoff experience at a high level, he can also be impactful in terms of helping those guys with what they’re facing on the court.”
Murray is equally focused on the early stages of his knee rehabilitation. He took warmups shots, without jumping, before each of the Nuggets’ first two playoff games. Malone said Murray is “progressing nicely” with a long road ahead until he’s ready to play.
Until then, expect Murray to continue his role as sideline coach and hype man during the playoffs with Game 3 of Nuggets-Blazers on Thursday night in Portland.
“That’s just Jamal,” forward Paul Millsap said. “He’s always a guy willing to help the next guy out. Even though he’s not playing, he wants us to win still. … You don’t have a lot of guys who are injured, and out for the year, but still want the team to succeed. He’s one of those guys who wanted us to win so bad and he’s willing to do anything within his power to help that happen.
“That’s why you see him on the sideline coaching guys. He talks to me and coaches me out there, too.”