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Dejounte Murray's return offers hope for Spurs, fan base still reeling over Kawhi

Murray set to return after ACL injury forced him to miss season

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)
(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

SAN ANTONIO – The tweet was sent June 13, minutes after Kawhi Leonard lifted the Larry O’Brien and NBA Finals MVP trophy in Oakland. It was from the account of Dejounte Murray.

It featured a photo of Murray and made reference to the Spurs young point guard anxiously looking ahead to next season after a lost one.

It was also a bit of a message in the moment to the Spurs faithful, a reeling fan base that had just seen its former all-everything player win a title in Raptors red instead of Spurs silver and black. 

The message was that Murray was getting close to returning, to help the Spurs reach the mountain top once again. 

To be clear, Murray is not the player Leonard is, but he may get there someday.

That’s the hope of the coaching staff and the front office, and of course optimistic Spurs fans.

By all accounts Murray was set to have a breakout campaign, but suffered a torn ACL injury in October that ended his promising season before it ever started.

Murray was in denial and disbelief when it occurred.

“I call LaMarcus (Aldridge) and I'm like, 'Big Bro I can play.' Nothing bad happened,” Murray recently told reporters. “I called Coach (Gregg) Popovich. Told him I'm good. The next day I felt the pain. I said, ‘OK, I'm not good.”

The injury was a devastating blow for the squad that had several new players.

A grueling and lengthy rehab followed. Murray finally hit the court two to three months into his rehabilitation.

He’s now playing full court and excited to get back to training camp, but his time away from the court changed his perspective.

"I appreciate life. Every single day, I'm able to wake up, especially where I come from,” said Murray. "But most importantly, it just made me hungry. It made me thirsty to play again.” 

The injury did not deter Murray. He didn’t allow it to. “I feel great mentally. I'm happy. I won’t let anything like that break me,” said Murray.

Part of his mental recovery was that he was never too far from the team or coaches.

He was at the Spurs facility, at practices and traveled with the team when it was allowed.

“Coach Pop gave me time. I told him I want to be around, films, practices, games,” Murray said. “He gave me my space and my time, and I was around my teammates every day.”

Murray is part of the Spurs youth movement poised to lead the franchise into future.

Still, the 22-year-old guard has the feel of a 10-year veteran.

Last week, Murray was at seen at the practice facility getting in more offseason work and more shots.

He was the last person to leave the floor after this year's Spurs summer league team wrapped up practice.

"It's not just about the young guys. It’s the whole team,” Murray said. "There's 15 guys, not just three young guys to win a championship.”

The Spurs recently marked 20 years since the franchise’s first championship in 1999. Murray was 2 years old at the time.

His goal is to bring glory back to the silver and black and in the process, possibly become the next young Spurs star and leader.

"I'm just excited to get to work. I want the championship bad,” Murray said. "And I just want the players that want it as bad as me.”

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)
(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

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