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‘Always nice being home.’ Jamal Murray basks in cheers from Raptors fans, looks ahead to World Cup

The cheers from the crowd rang a little louder than usual for a visiting player when Jamal Murray was featured ahead of the whistleblowing Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena.

The Denver Nuggets guard hadn’t played a game in Toronto since December 2018, largely because of covid and a devastating knee injury that kept him out of action for a season.

He reportedly bought more than 50 tickets for his family and friends, many of whom he grew up with in nearby Kitchener.

“It’s always nice to be home,” the 26-year-old said after the game, a 125-110 Nuggets loss.

“Seeing everyone, seeing people I haven’t seen in years, seeing my family obviously, my little brother. It’s always good,” he added. a small town, so I have a good reputation in Kitchener, it’s just nice to see everyone in Toronto.

Drafted seventh overall by the Nuggets in 2016, Murray is in the midst of a stellar rebounding season following an ACL tear in April 2021 which kept him out all last season.

Murray has played 55 games this season with Denver. He is averaging 20.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and a career high 6.0 assists in 32.8 minutes per game. In 40 minutes of action Tuesday, he scored 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting and nine assists.

Prior to his long absence, he had already cemented his place in the NBA as a prolific bucket, especially when it matters most – leading the Nuggets to consecutive historical returns 3-1 series deficits to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the 2020 “bubble” playoffs.

Murray’s connection to Toronto and Canada can also be seen in his commitment to representing the country. He has played for Team Canada since 2013 for the under-16 team and is part of a group of players believed to boost the country’s chances at both the World Cup and the Olympics.

A short video tribute of Murray wearing Canada’s uniform played on the arena’s jumbotron at the end of the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, drawing more cheers from a sold-out crowd.

When asked if he thinks Team Canada, under the tutelage of Nick Nurse, has what it takes to bring home the gold, Murray didn’t hesitate.

“I believe it. I mean, I’m trying to win a (NBA) championship first,” he said. “Once we lock down the summer, I think it’ll be good to see other guys.”

Team Canada is expected to be in Jakarta at the end of August this year to begin FIBA ​​World Cup competition. The goal is to finish the tournament among the two best teams in the Americas to ensure automatic qualification for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Prior to the match, Nurse praised Murray’s skills on the court and his desire to compete. With young stars like Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and others, Nurse said he can foresee a bright future for Team Canada.

“I think they’re both very committed, they’ve both been in the camps and (have) a really good attitude towards the game,” he said. “I feel like Jamal really wants to play…I think mentally and even verbally he’s into it.”

Murray also loves Gilgeous-Alexander and how he took his game to another level. The 24-year-old from Toronto is averaging 31.2 points per game for the Thunder and was named to the NBA All-Star Team for the first time in his career this year.

” He plays very well. He’s playing really well,” Murray said, noting his fellow Canadian’s ability to be aggressive and lead his team.

“His game speaks for itself. He plays amazing.


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