“There’s so many things going on in my head.”

Ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Jamal Murray is relaxed. He spends some time shooting three-pointers, laughing, enjoying his time with teammates and coaches. He shoots from all over the court, including his customary high-arcing jumper from the deep left corner. He’s all smiles when he sits down with the local media contingent, knowing that he still has a long way to go.

“I ain’t dealt with nothing yet,” Murray admits, discussing how he learns from the highs and lows of his performances at this stage in his recovery process. “Even when I’m playing good, I might take a heat check that I didn’t need to take. I’m just having excitement, whatever it is.”

There have been some of those moments, though perhaps not as many as Murray might like. It’s easier to stomach a bad shot after a few makes in a row and far more difficult to learn how to navigate the low points of when the shot isn’t falling.

“I think the same thing goes for the opposite when I’m playing bad. It kinda takes me a little longer just to figure it out.”

Jamal Murray is re-learning basketball on the fly. Sometimes, it looks easy. There are moments when his two-man game with Nikola Jokić looks like it never departed. Dynamic passes, creative movement, and a whole lotta fun often transpire when those two are clicking like the injury never happened.

Sometimes, it still looks like Murray is wading through mud to get where he wants to go. There’s some tentativeness to his movement at times, something he admits still plagues him mentally from time to time.

“I told Ryan, I think he asked this last time, it’s just falling,” Murray shared. “It’s going in the air, challenging the big, and not worrying about if I can do all of the acrobatic stuff in the air. So, it’s really just that, be comfortable falling and not subconsciously thinking about it before I take off, or when I take off, or while I’m in the air thinking about it.”

Murray’s last healthy season was his best at finishing around the rim, shooting an absurd 81.6 FG% from between zero and three feet. His ability to contort his body around the defender, use his touch on difficult shot angles, and sometimes leap above the contest made it easy for him. He also balanced those numbers with a career high shooting percentage from the floater zone (46.5 FG% from three to 10 feet).

“My touch still isn’t all the way back. I haven’t made a floater in a minute,” Murray jokes.

He’s right. The shots around the rim (64.4 FG% from zero to three feet) are mostly in line with his career averages. The bigger issue is the floater zone, shooting a career low 35.7 FG% from three to 10 feet. Those also make up 18.4% of all his shot attempts so far, the highest proportion of his career. Not only has there been some tentativeness to challenge the big at times, but it’s caused some indecisiveness, leading to more pump fakes in the floater zone as well.

“If I have the ball, and I want to go dunk it, I’m thinking ‘Am I ready to dunk it? Am I warm enough to dunk it? Do I want to dunk it? Do I want to jump this high?'”

Murray has just two dunks this year so far. It’s an abnormal number for him and directly correlated to the confidence in his leaping ability at this stage.

“It’s really weird to even talk about, because no one really knows [when that will change].”

Nov 5, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) looks on during a timeout in the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The season is still young. The Nuggets have played just 24 games, barely passing the quarter mark. Murray himself has played 20 games – 597 minutes – enduring all of the ups and downs like a scene from Whiplash. His Per 36 numbers look nearly identical to his previous seasons. Only his shooting splits have really seen a dip. There’s no reason to believe those numbers won’t eventually rise. The closer to his original comfort level Murray feels, the less he will think about jumping, landing, when to shoot, when to pass. He will just play basketball.

“I remember the first game against Utah, at Utah, I didn’t go to the paint at all. I didn’t want to,” Murray shared. “I got into the paint, I picked it up, passed it out, figure it out.”

There have definitely been times when Murray has looked unsure. Perhaps that’s still most of the time right now. The highs have remained high against the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. The lows have been lower against some of the better more physical defenses he has faced so far, like the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. In between have been flashes of brilliance, but it’s those flashes that also highlight the inconsistency at this time.

He’s working through it though.

“I’ve gotten better, and I know I’ve got a lot of the year left to continue to get better.”

There’s plenty of time to figure things out. The playoffs are still four months away. Murray will figure some things out about his game, his body, and his limits between now and then.

The biggest question: when will Jamal Murray start feeling like the best version of himself again?

Not even Jamal himself can answer that one just yet.