Jusuf Nurkic Is Ready To Make His Presence Felt For The Blazers In His Return

Jusuf Nurkić has been waiting for more than a year to get back in action on the court. The Portland Trail Blazers big man is ecstatic to make his return after a lengthy rehab from a compound leg fracture that sidelined him since March 2019. Nurkić originally was scheduled to make his season debut on March 15, 2020, but after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the NBA to a screeching halt, he had to wait a few more months for the league’s restart in Orlando.

Nurkić spoke to the media during a Zoom conference on Sunday to discuss finally returning to full-contact basketball in practice.

“It’s been blessed,” said Nurkić. “It’s [been] 14 months [to] play the first practice with the team, with the full squad, pretty much. Just that joy and excitement and passing, I feel like just learn the basketball is something I [was] really missing.”

Before going down due to the gruesome leg injury last season, the 7-foot center was having himself a career year, averaging career highs with 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists, finding a fit in Portland. His scoring and rebounding impact stands out to most, but new teammate Carmelo Anthony is especially impressed with Nurkić’s playmaking abilities.

“He’s a playmaker,” Anthony said during the same Zoom conference. “Anytime you have a playmaker up top controlling the offense, getting the ball out of Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum]’s hands, and even my hands, that’s good, especially as a big. When you’re a big who can pass and make plays like that, it gives us another option.”

That playmaking comes naturally for Nurkić. “I think in Bosnia, or the Balkan region, we’ve been taught more to play team sports,” he said. “We don’t have the type of individual who can score 50 a game. The more people who touch the ball, the more happier. I think that’s the way I grew up. Assists make two people happy.”

Most importantly, Nurkić says he has no lingering issues from the leg fracture he suffered on March 25, 2019.

“It’s just bumps and hits, regular me, man,” the Bosnian native said. “It’s probably stronger, so everything is so far great. Continue to do my job and try to get as ready as possible with the team. As far as health, zero concerns, man.”

Portland’s other top big man Zach Collins also will be returning to the line up after a shoulder injury last October. The Blazers are tied for ninth place in the West with a record of 29–37 with the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings hot on their trails. All three teams are looking to unseat the Memphis Grizzlies who have a 3.5 game lead clinging to the eighth spot in the West.

With the return of Nurkić and Collins, the Blazers have their inside presence back and are ready to make noise in Orlando, and all the other opponents should be listening.