October 03, 2016 - 10:01 PM
CALGARY - Jamal Murray's college coach predicted the Canadian would lead the NBA in rookie scoring this season. Murray comes armed with the confidence to do so.
"I know I can score. Everybody knows I can score," Murray said Monday in Calgary.
"I know I'm one of the best scorers in the league. I'm one of the best rookies here, but other than that, no pressure."
The teenager made his NBA pre-season debut in Canada as his Denver Nuggets opened their exhibition schedule Monday night against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The 19-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., scored nine points, including his first three-pointer in the fourth quarter, and hauled in three rebounds in 17 minutes of court time.
Denver is grooming Murray, who spent one season playing for John Calipari at Kentucky before turning pro, to play both point and shooting guard.
"I see Jamal Murray as a guard," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We don't pigeonhole people. He's a guy who can make shots and make plays for his teammates.
"I think today's NBA, that's the way the league and the game is going. How many true point guards are there anymore? Very, very few."
"He's a guard that we love and we believe in. There are going to be nights this year when he looks like a 19-year-old rookie and there will be a lot of nights this year when he looks like the best rookie in the draft class."
Emmanuel Mudiay, 20, and Gary Harris, 22, are Denver's projected starters at those positions respectively with Murray pushing them for minutes.
Harris suffered a groin injury in the first half Monday and did not return to the game, which increased Murray's second-half minutes.
"As far as being a combo guard, you've got to be able to play both positions well and know where everybody is going to be," Murray said.
"Some plays you get mixed up, but once you go through it once or twice, it's fine. I know the plays, know them well. I've got to make sure I know which play to run."
Denver ranked 24th in three-point percentage and in the league's bottom third in field goal percentage in 2015-16 en route to missing the playoffs a third straight season.
Murray's 113 points from beyond the arc ranked first in the Southeastern Conference and eighth in the NCAA last season.
His average of 20 points per game was the highest for a Wildcat under Calipari and also set a freshman record. Murray drained 29 points in his third exhibition game of the Las Vegas NBA Summer League.
"I'm very confident. That's one thing I've always had," Murray said. "I know what I can do. I don't think there's anybody that can stop me on the court. That's the way you've got to think. That's the way I think, yeah."
He's already been featured in an Adidas commercial alongside NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Broncos linebacker Von Miller and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
Malone doesn't feel Murray's confidence is unusual.
"When you come off a freshman season at Kentucky like he had, which was an unbelievable freshman league in a high-level conference, he should be confident," the coach said.
"I told him when we drafted him that 'you're biggest challenge is going to be the physicality of the NBA. He'll get a chance to experience that now.
"He's confident, but I've been around a lot of guys who have the same type of confidence. He handles himself the right way. He's not cocky and I think there's a big difference in that."
Eight days into his first NBA season, the six-foot-four, 207-pound Murray acknowledged the size of athletes and the pace is a step up from college, but believes he can handle both.
"You've got to make quick decisions a little faster," he explained. "In the NBA, there's more reads, spacing and cutting and stuff.
"Everybody is taller, everybody's stronger, everybody is more physical, but it's something I'm used to. I've always played older. Even in college, guys were older. It's not that big of a difference. I've just got to make sure I'm in shape."
Murray gave fellow Canadian and current Raptor Cory Joseph a quick hug Monday as the teams mingled on the Saddledome court between shootarounds.
Now in his fifth NBA season, the 25-year-old Joseph expects a flat, fast learning curve for Murray.
"Learning the schemes and learning the NBA way, it's a little bit fast, but he's very, very talented," Joseph said. "I'm sure he'll get over that hump very quickly, if there is even a hump."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016