Are the Denver Nuggets putting undue pressure on Jamal Murray?

Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly, recently told the media that the decision on whether Jamal Murray will return is completely up to him. Is this fair for the team to ask of the player?

Speaking with Tyler Polumbus and DMac on ‘The Drive’, a local radio segment, Connelly said that the decision is “100 percent” up to Jamal on whether he wants to return or not.

“When you’re dealing with a major injury, you want to do everything in the organization’s power to ensure rehab is handled well and the guy is physically where he needs to be.

“We’ve told Jamal this entire year, we’ll tell you when you’re physically ready and you got to tell us when you want to get out there. We want him to feel really no pressure, we want him to know the organization has his best interests in mind. When he’s ready, he’ll get back out there. He’s done a great job rehabbing, he looks really, really good and I know he’s chomping at the bit to get back out there.”

He said all the right things here and has made it abundantly clear that there isn’t any pressure on Jamal Murray to return unless he believes he’s healthy enough. But isn’t the act of going on the radio to say this some form of pressure?

Nate Duncan suggested on his podcast that this isn’t the best course of action for a front office to take with a star player’s injury.

The timeline for Murray’s return was always going to be Murky given he hurt himself down the end of a COVID-shortened season. A rough recovery time for a player tearing their ACL is about 12 months and Jamal is reaching that point right now. If he were to return in the playoffs, without any regular season games to ramp up to game form, would he be able to hang at a playoff intensity?

If he doesn’t think so, then it’s fair to take the full year off.

But there are so many differing reports out there about how ready Jamal Murray is to return. Mount Morris told Sean Keeler, Denver Postthat he’s in game shape and ready to return to the court:

“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.”

However, Nikola Jokic said Murray would be stupid to return if he’s not 100 percent:

“I told Jamal, ‘If you’re not 100 percent ready, don’t come back.’ It’s stupid. You risk [further injury] if you’re not 100 percent ready to go, especially in the playoffs.”

Would Jokic say this if he knew Jamal was ready to go?

We simply don’t know how Jamal Murray feels and if he’s ready to return to the court. Either way, is it fair for Tim Connelly to put the onus on his player? Under Connelly, the Denver Nuggets have been a very player-friendly organization, whether that be financially or on the development side of things.

Putting the pressure on your player to announce their return, telling the media that he’s ready to go, it’s just that Jamal doesn’t want to play, is a step in the wrong direction.

It also wouldn’t be the end of the world if the front office took the hit for the injury news, in fact, it happens all the time across the league. Why doesn’t the front office say he’s not ready to play yet and they’ll announce something when they know?

Is Connelly feeling some pressure to make a deep playoff run? If so, I shouldn’t.

If the Denver Nuggets do nothing and both Murray and Michael Porter Jr. don’t touch the court until the 2022-23 season, they’ll be title contenders for at least the next five years. The core of those three plus the long-term deals for Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris, and Bones Hyland is enough to be at the top of the West for a long time.

The risks associated with bringing an injured player back before they’re ready to hit the court are too great compared to a rushed playoff push.

Connelly likely isn’t facing any pressure to bring his star guard back and make a deep playoff push, so that begs the question again: why would he go out of his way to say this?

All the articles you read, podcasts you listen to, and quotes from people around the team give the same answer: ‘nobody knows’.

Connelly and the Nuggets front office were going to be title contenders before Jamal’s injury in 2021, if it wasn’t for that, we’d be in the five-plus year title-contending window now. Maybe the allure of tacking on more years to that is just too good to pass up.

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