Alex English: Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. are special
The Denver Nuggets have surprised many NBA fans and observers in their journey to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Clippers. Yet, this is exactly where Alex English, arguably the greatest Nugget of all-time, thought they would be.
“I’m not surprised, I felt like it would be a seven-game series and it would be tough [for both teams],” English said in a phone call with Nuggets.com Monday.
The Nuggets haven’t disappointed in providing the theatrics and drama in this postseason. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit to overcome the Jazz in the first round and could potentially repeat the feat against Los Angeles if they secure a victory in Game 7. If Denver earns a ticket to the Western Conference finals, they would be the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 hole twice in a single playoff series. It is a daunting task, but English believes the team is clicking at the right moment.
“I think it took the Nuggets a minute to get their stride back,” he said. “They seem to have it back now and everyone is accepting their roles and [Nikola] Jokic has been playing great. He’s been playing out of his mind.”
Like many around the world, English has enjoyed the high-level performances from Jokić throughout the postseason. There has often been a debate about who is the greatest Nugget of all-time, with English, David Thompson, and Carmelo Anthony usually at the forefront. During English’s 10 seasons in Denver, he was an eight-time All-Star and a scoring champion. The Hall of Fame small forward has backed Jokic to join the aforementioned trio in the conversation.
“He is certainly there,” English said. “Even if his career ended now, he’s proven he’s one of the greatest Nuggets of all-time.”
English has been most impressed with how dependable Jokić has been throughout the 2020 postseason. Despite going up against two strong defensive teams in the Jazz and Clippers, Jokić has elevated his game during this playoff run, averaging 26.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.5 dimes on 52.2 percent shooting. He also vastly improved his three-point shooting, going from 31.4 percent in the regular season to 46.3 percent in the postseason.
“On the world stage, he has [shown] he has that kind of presence in the way that he’s played,” English explained. “He’s the main reason why the Nuggets are in the position that they are in. He’s been the one guy who has been consistent throughout. He’s carried everybody [with him]. It’s a testament to his game, what he’s done, and what he means to the Nuggets.”
Jamal Murray is another player who has stood out to English. Denver’s lead guard is ready to take the next step in his career, according to the Nuggets’ former All-Star.
“He’s a superstar,” English said. “He’s going to get better.”
He added, “He’s not been as consistent as I would like…When he’s played well, he’s played exceptionally well.
Expectations have been high for Murray after a spectacular series against the Jazz, during which he averaged an unreal 31.6 points per game on 55.0 percent shooting (55.3 percent from downtown). After initially struggling against the Clippers’ holy grail of perimeter defenders in Patrick Beverly, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard, Murray has gotten hot from behind the arc in Games 5 and 6. He’s been averaging 23.5 points a game and is hitting 66.7 percent from behind the arc. English is excited to see how Murray will fare in Game 7.
“He’s a very big part of this game tomorrow,” English said. “He’s going to have to show up the whole game because it’s the last game for one of these teams.”
If there’s been one other player who has picked up the scoring burden for the Nuggets, it’s been Michael Porter Jr. The rookie has been the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds while hitting 38.5 percent from downtown. English has enjoyed watching Porter Jr. from afar and sees similarities to himself and a certain 10-time All-Star who makes his living in Brooklyn.
“Body type, yes, and he’s got a certain calmness to his game, which is similar [to me], but different kind of skills. I like his game, he’s a long, lanky player. He’s got the Kevin Durant type skill where he can use the long ball, he can go inside and he’s got a lack of [fear],” English said. “He’s got a fierceness to his game and he wants the ball, he wants to play.”
He added, “He’s got toughness, he’s got heart and he believes in himself. I like that about him.”
English will be one of the virtual fans in attendance for Tuesday’s game. While he wouldn’t put a prediction on Tuesday’s game, fearing a potential jinx, he does like how things potentially lineup if the Nuggets make out of the Western Conference semifinals.
“I would love to see them win, you know that,” English gushed. “It going to be tough and it can go either way. If they do win, I personally feel like they can beat the Lakers. The Lakers have a lot of skill, but they were exposed in that first game [against the Rockets]. Their all-around talent isn’t as strong as what the Nuggets have.”