Will Barton, the heart and soul of the Nuggets, had as much fun as anyone amid Jamal Murray’s 48-point explosion on Monday night against Boston.
Watching dutifully from the sidelines, Murray’s career-night served as both a momentary distraction from the grind of his rehab and an inspirational flashpoint.
“Oh, it was crazy,” Barton said. “I’m still mad he didn’t get 50. I get motivated from him. It’s like, man, he went and did that, maybe I gotta try to do that. It was inspirational. It was makes me want to be better.”
And as for the clamor revolving around Murray’s last-second shot at 50 that irritated Kyrie Irving? Barton had an opinion.
“I said no, but I haven’t been in that position yet, so I won’t just say I wouldn’t have done it, but my natural thought process is to say no, don’t shoot it because the game’s pretty much over. He’s my teammate and whatever he decides, during the moment, I’m riding with him. I’ll tell him he’s wrong afterwards but that’s what family does.”
Barton underwent surgery to repair hip and core muscles on Oct. 23, and the Nuggets planned to re-evaluate him in six weeks following his injury against Phoenix on Oct. 20. He had no updated timeline for his return but said his rehab, which has focused on strengthening his core and adductor muscles, has gone well. He’s also recently started to get shots up.
Barton re-joined the team only days after his surgery, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone has repeatedly said his presence has offered an emotional and vocal boost to a team that’s often too quiet.
“I need it,” Barton said. “I’m not the type of person, I don’t really like being alone, and being injured it’s easy for you to go the opposite way because you feel left out, you’re not playing. Me, I need that team camaraderie. I need to be around the guys even though I’m not playing just to let them know I’m still in the fight.”
At 9-3, Barton said this is exactly where he thought the Nuggets would be at this point in the season; he also thinks their ceiling is a lot higher even though they currently have the second-best defense in the NBA and a borderline top-10 offense.
“I think we can be much better, and that’s scary,” he said. The Nuggets are already deep, and Barton’s return coupled with the eventual addition of Isaiah Thomas and potentially rookie Michael Porter Jr. could give them ample offensive advantages.
In the meantime, Barton sounds as if he’s stir crazy. Sure, he’ll offer advice to guys if he sees something from the bench, but he’s cognizant not to be overbearing. Instead, he channels that energy into watching games, which isn’t difficult for the basketball junkie.
“I’m in the house so much and I can’t get in the gym really and work out like I usually do, so I’m just watching games, of course I’m always watching our games and then I’m just watching around the league,” he said. “You don’t even want to know the things that go on in my mind watching basketball. It consumes me, and then I can’t play. I watch more just to feel connected to the game.”
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