Nuggets’ Jamal Murray: Mental Health Struggle in NBA Bubble Is ‘A Real Thing’

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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Denver Nuggets have been inside the NBA bubble for more than 70 days now. 

Still eight wins away from a title, they’ll remain in Orlando, Florida a bit longer after coming back from down 3-1 to beat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs Tuesday.

The grind has real consequences that go beyond the basketball court, though. Clippers forward Paul George said as much when he talked about being in a “dark place” mentally in late August. 

Nuggets star Jamal Murray told Sam Amick of The Athletic he’s been feeling it as well. 

Paul George had said something about depression, about stress in the bubble, and it’s real. … [The mental health struggle] is a real thing, and I could see it,” Murray said. “There’s time when you’re like, ‘Man, I feel like I’m in jail sometimes.’ But you go back, play basketball, have a good [practice], talk to your guys—and they’re like brothers to me—so it all helps and it all works out.”

Murray said he’s essentially cocooned himself in his daily routine of waking up at nine a.m., working out, napping, and going back to the arena for practice or games. 

Adhering to his schedule is one way he’s able to maintain his mental health and keep himself focused. 

“It’s really real, and it’s hard to deal with—being away from the fam,” Murray said. “… But for me, [basketball] is an addiction. I go by the pool, get my mind off basketball, come back, and get ready to go. When I put my addiction to basketball, it shows on the court. I go in for an extra lift. I lift twice [on game-days]—before shoot-around and before the game. I prepare myself mentally.”

More than two months into the NBA’s most ambitious experiment yet, Murray seems to have found the right way to keep himself prepared. 

The Nuggets are heading into a Western Conference Finals matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers with Murray averaging 27.1 points, 6.4 assists and five rebounds per game. 

As the point guard goes, so does Denver. 

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy.

With a few weeks left until Murray gets to go home and rejoin his family, staying on top of his mental health will be as important as anything he does on the court. 

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