Slimmed-down Nikola Jokic makes Nuggets tough to beat in West, says Jamal Murray

NBA


With a core that has been intact longer than most of their West rivals to go with a fitter and more “athletic” Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray says the Denver Nuggets are ready to show that they can emerge from Orlando with an NBA championship.

“We know we can go win the title,” the Nuggets’ guard said in a Zoom call with Denver reporters. “Me and Joker have been in Denver this whole time, working out.”

“Why not?” Murray later replied when asked about winning it all. “We have proven to be one the best teams year in and year out since we have been building. We have beaten good teams consistently. We shouldn’t have lost to Portland [last year in the conference semifinals]. That was more on us, our inexperience and they are a good team. But we don’t think that there is a team that can beat us in a seven-game series when we are playing at our best.”

The Nuggets (43-22) are currently third in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the LA Clippers (44-20). They currently have the sixth best record in the NBA.

And now Murray says the team’s All-Star 7-foot center is ready to unveil a new and improved body out of quarantine, with the season tentatively scheduled to resume on July 31 at the Walt Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida.

“Hey, Joker got a little four pack,” the guard said of Jokic’s abs. “I love it. … Remember, probably [my] second year [2017-18], how skinny Joker was. You could start to see him put on the weight. He put on a lot more and then he took it, just like, it’s just gone. He took it all the way out.

“It is kind of weird to see him like this where he is a lot more athletic, he is moving a lot better.”

After beating San Antonio in seven games in the first round before losing in seven to Portland last postseason, the Nuggets returned with the same young core and opened the season 13-3. But in the eight games before the NBA season was suspended, the Nuggets went 4-4.

“If we can just find that consistency and play at a high level,” Murray said of the Nuggets’ biggest issue. “When me and Joker are on, I don’t think there is anybody that is going to stop us. And if they do, then good game.”

Between working out and studying film, Murray says he has been watching what has been happening in the United States. The Canadian has been reminded of the racism he has experienced during his lifetime.

“I want to send my condolences to the family,” Murray said of George Floyd, whose death has ignited protests for equality around the country. “… I myself have seen the same racism happen to me and my Dad. … I think about all the stories I have growing up with my Dad how obvious it is. The stuff that the cops do and the stuff that happens, what bothers us, the black community, is it’s so blatant. … It’s so out in the open that if you can’t see it, then you are part of the problem because it is very obvious.”

“When something as blatant as this happens, then you can’t shut up and dribble, you can’t ignore it. You can’t just let it happen. It becomes frustrating, like such a life changer for everybody, and it really starts to open your eyes.”



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