Nuggets star Jamal Murray crossing fingers that he can play for Canada at Olympics

DENVER — Playing for Canada's men's basketball team at the Olympics next year would be a wonderful opportunity for Jamal Murray, but the Denver Nuggets star has no idea how realistic that is at this stage.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the world and the NBA playoffs scheduled to overlap with an Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria next summer, the native of Kitchener, Ont., knows there's a long way to go before determining whether a trip to Tokyo is a possibility.

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"Any time you play for your country, it's a different type of honour than just playing on a team or in a league," Murray said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday as the Nuggets continued individual workouts ahead of the start of training camp this weekend.

"Going against the best athletes in the world on the biggest stage, it would be a lot of fun. Plus, you get to play with guys I never get to play with or practise with. I've got some good friends on there, too.

"It would be a really good experience, especially being in a different country playing. I look forward to it. I just hope it happens. Like I said, just trying to get through this season the best way we can, try to get it through it healthy and then look ahead."

Murray would be a leader on a potentially dangerous Canadian team in Tokyo. But Canada has to get through a tough qualifier to earn its first Olympic berth in 21 years, assuming the Games go ahead as scheduled.

The NBA season is scheduled to conclude before the start of the Olympics.

"If we do play at the Olympics, it will be a lot of fun to play with these guys and really get to see the roster we have," Murray said.

Coming off a playoffs in which he had four 40-plus point games to help the Nuggets advance to the Western Conference Finals, Murray is hungry for more this season.

The Nuggets lost in five games against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the West final after upsetting Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers.

"It feels good when another team gives you more respect or plays a little harder and stuff like that," Murray said. "But we're just worried about us. It's not like we won the championship last year. We're just going to keep grinding."

Murray says playing strong defence is his priority.

"Defence and rebounding help you work yourself into the game," he said. "You can get locked in on offence or just on one side of the court. but when you're locked in entirely and really vocal on defence, the offence will take care of itself ... I'm just trying to focus more on my defensive energy and let it translate to my offence."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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