Speaking for the first time since the Nuggets announced they will be without their star point guard indefinitely, Malone said the team could see Murray’s anguish over the season-ending injury.
“It’s been an emotional 24, 36 hours,” the Nuggets head coach said before the Nuggets faced the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. “Jamal is devastated, understandably so. I think the team is also a little. We understand the importance of Jamal Murray. We are a better team when Jamal Murray is healthy… He is almost second in every major [statistical] category on the team behind Nikola [Jokic].”
Murray suffered the injury with 50.6 seconds remaining in the Nuggets’ 116-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. The point guard averaged 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 47.7% from the field this season.
Carrying title aspirations that were bolstered by the trade for Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets were shellshocked late Monday night after Murray went down.
“It was really hard, we stayed over for that game in San Francisco,” Malone said. “Just sitting with him on the way to the airport, your heart breaks because you can see the raw emotion that he was feeling.”
The Nuggets coach told his team that it has to regroup and understand that it still has the opportunity of contending in the West.
“Some roles will change obviously,” Malone said. “I don’t want one person thinking they have to be Jamal Murray. That’s not the case. It has to be by committee.”
The Nuggets will have to move on this season and for a portion of next season without their star guard. Malone said that typically the rehab for a torn ACL can range nine-to-10 months.
“We love him, we have his back and we are going to help him walk this walk in the next year,” Malone said. “I have no doubt that he will come back a better player, a stronger player. That is just how he’s made. It’s in his DNA. I expect nothing less.”