Minutes before the game, Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori had to do a double-take. A few feet in front of him near the court at the Thomas & Mack Center was Jamal Murray. Dressed. Looking as if he was going to play.
Nori tapped on the player’s shoulder to get the info. Murray, in fact, would not be playing in what turned out to be a 90-71 loss to Minnesota on Sunday afternoon, but he did warm up. Murray wanted to. He had hoped to play in summer league, but was not fully ready by the time the games started last Friday.
But he could at least join the layup line.
“It’s very tough on me because I looked down that bench and wanted to say ‘Jamal, get in the game,’” Nori joked. “But it’s great. He’s champing at the bit. He was hurt all of last year, he had the hernia thing, and he still played 82 games. So, I think he’s finally back to normal. To use a term from a former Nuggets, he’s got fresh legs. And he wants to use them.
“It’s great that he was out there. He wants to support his teammates. He’s happy to be here, he wants to be here. And he’s looking forward to getting ready to go next season for sure.”
Murray participated in a couple of practices with the summer league team in Denver last week before they departed for Las Vegas. Before they left for the airport, he told Nuggets.com he wasn’t going to play in the games because, “at this time I don’t want to force it. It’s good to be out there, working on my conditioning, how I’m moving, all of that; just get back to basketball movements.”
Yet he acknowledged he was closing in on being full-go.
“Once I get into game shape and get my legs stronger, I’ll be a lot more explosive,” Murray said. “But right now I feel a lot better than I did before and I’m still not 100 (percent).”
Sunday, the Nuggets could have used him. They were down quickly to Minnesota as turnovers became an issue once again. The Nuggets committed 23 in the game and the Timberwolves turned them into 23 points. Rebounding has been an issue as well and was again. Minnesota out-rebounded the Nuggets 43-27 in the contest.
It was a bounce-back shooting game, however, for shooting guard Malik Beasley. He scored 20 a team-high points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. Still, Beasley kept the focus on his overall performance.
“A little better,” he said of his game. “Still could have played better defense. I could have attacked a little bit more.”
Beasley said the goal was to “be calm, lead the team, be more efficient. Know when to score the ball, know when to pass the ball, know when to be a leader.”
Juancho Hernangomez finished with 18 points. He and Beasley were the only two Nuggets in double figures.
But turnovers were the main talking point.
“Just the same story as the other night,” Nori said. “We turned it over 23 times for 23 points, and we allowed them 11 offensive rebounds. … At the end of the day, you’ve just got to take care of the ball.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com or @chrisadempsey on Twitter.