NBA Exec Convinced Jamal Murray Avoided Suspension to Protect NBA TV Ratings

Jamal Murray
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves took the wind out of the Denver Nuggets’ sails with their 26-point win in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, proving to be the more dominant team on both ends of the floor. Yet, while there was plenty of excitement filling the air, much of the talk focused on Jamal Murray’s unruly actions.

Minnesota unleashed a NAW & Order style defense against Denver’s No. 1 backcourt option, holding the star point guard to the worst shooting performance of his playoff career (a blistering cold 16.7% field-goal rate).

Remember the Jamal Murray towel throw from Minnesota Timberwolves vs Denver Nuggets Gm 2?

Murray was so frustrated that he tried throwing a towel onto the floor just to disrupt the Timberwolves’ flow. When that attempt failed (mostly due to poor form) Murray turned things up a notch, tossing a ‘heat pack‘ onto the court, which nearly ended up underneath Karl-Anthony Towns’ foot. Had that happened, we’d be having a different conversation, in many respects.

But somehow, the referees missed both egregious acts, so Murray avoided any in-game penalties. No ejection, no technical foul, not even a warning. The refs thought it was an accident. Someone sneezed the heat pack onto the floor, apparently.

The tape never lies, though, and both of Murray’s tosses (towel and heat pack) were caught on tape, leaving him ripe for punishment from the league. I mean, throwing objects onto the floor, intentionally trying to (a) hit the referee or (b) an slip up an opponent cannot be tolerated, right? Immediately after, that’s what most thought. Of course, that’s not what happened.

Related: 10 Greatest Minnesota Timberwolves Players Of All-Time

Instead, Murray avoided all disciplinary action sans a $100K slap on the wrist fine (Murray made $33.8 million this season in base salary). If you’ll remember, that’s the same fine Rudy Gobert got for flashing the money signs at refs during a regular season game.

Oh yeah, Jamal did that in game 2, as well. In fact, he screamed at refs, flashed a money sign and threw objects onto the court. All of that was only worth the same discipline as what Gobert got, apparently.

Did Jamal Murray avoid suspension because of NBA TV ratings?

Or… did the NBA higher-ups get involved to make sure a star like Jamal Murray was available for one of the most anticipated games of the 2024 NBA Playoffs? That’s what multiple NBA executives told Heavy.com.

“We all know what’s going on here, and it’s a bad look. This was about protecting the TV audience for the next game — or games.”

One Anonymous NBA team executive on Jamal Murray ‘discipline’ after game 2

Being that Murray’s incidents were unusual, in that we haven’t seen other athletes behave like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, no one really knew what to expect, but a suspension for Game 3 felt like a real possibility.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers Eyeing Timberwolves’ Top Assistant Micah Nori

However, others had different theories. Would the NBA really suspend one of the Nuggets’ best players for their biggest same of the season when Denver was already facing a 2-0 series deficit?

“Well, what you just said by fining Jamal Murray $100,000 is that we’re prioritizing the ratings at ESPN for that big game they have for Friday night over both the referees and the players. But who’s happy? ESPN’s happy. ESPN got their game. They’ve got a playoff game of great interest on a Friday night in prime time.”

Another Anonymous NBA team executive on Jamal Murray ‘discipline’ after game 2

Remember, no team has ever successfully come back from a 3-0 deficit and won a seven-game series. If Murray was wiped out, Denver’s chances to extend the series would crater, and the NBA knows it.

Consider how much pre-game hype there was before Friday’s match tipped off. The Timberwolves felt confident, but everyone knew the reigning champions were coming to down, and they’d be hungrier than ever to declaw their newfound biggest rivals.

Jamal Murray, Minnesota Timberwolves
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Yet, doing so without their sharpshooting point guard, who was already desperate to bounce back, would have been a massive challenge. Not to mention, how would the NBA market such a game? Not having Murray by Jokic’s side surely wouldn’t help ratings improve.

Related: Kevin Garnett Prophesized Timberwolves Gm 3 Loss, Soft Refs Included

Whatever. The league allowed Murray to play in Game 3, and he torched the Timberwolves for 24 points. The NBA can’t go back on their decision now. All the Wolves can do now is try getting back in Murray’s head again, restoring NAW & Order in Minnesota once and for all.

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