Jusuf Nurkic

Blazers' top stories: The maturation of Lillard and McCollum and Swanigan's emergence

Blazers' top stories: The maturation of Lillard and McCollum and Swanigan's emergence

Observations, notes and top stories from the Trail Blazers’ media day on Monday:

The maturation of Lillard and McCollum

One of the most encouraging things I heard throughout Monday’s media day came from the team’s two stars, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

There are often phases that an NBA player goes through during their career, one that former Blazers coach Nate McMillan first brought to my attention years ago. It usually evolves something like this: young player wants to make a name for himself; then he wants to make money, buy fancy cars, soak in the fame. But eventually, some players find they have enough fame and enough money. That’s when winning becomes paramount in their careers.

Some never come to that realization. For others it comes late in their careers.

On Monday, after listening to Lillard and McCollum, the concept of winning-above-all has already resonated with the Blazers’ two stars.

When asked by The Oregonian’s Jen Beyrle what would be a successful season for him, Lillard gave an answer that spoke beyond his 27 years.

“For me, it’s how much can I impact everybody else?’’ Lillard said. “I don’t think stats will tell the story, I don’t think making an All-Star Game will tell the story. I just think how much I can impact everybody else and lift everybody else up to make us a stronger team overall. How can I empower everybody else to where we are a winning team? That’s the next thing for me – how can I make this team go, how can I help us win games?’’

Later, after McCollum talked about being more concerned with winning games than his stats, I asked him about that evolution in his thinking. He said once he fought to show he could play, then secured a long-term contract, it was easier to get to the core of what it is all about: winning.

“There comes a time when you mature and understand that for one, you make a lot of money … so I have a comfort there, and a confidence because I worked hard, but now it’s about winning,’’ McCollum said. “I’ve proven myself. And I’ve said before, I will be a better player this year and the numbers may show it, they may not. But the complete package – from leadership to doing the right things off the court to making the extra pass, to defending, to boxing out – whatever it takes I just want to win. Because as you’ve seen in the past – people forget about certain things but they don’t about winning. Winning lasts forever.’’

Lillard, I believe, has long held winning above all else. This isn’t a revelation to him. But I still cringed at times when he rattled off his offensive stats in defense of his defense, or became consumed with his resume of All-Star appearances and the like. To hear him prioritize making players around him better, and concerning himself with figuring out ways to elevate those around him? It’s another sign that he is headed for greatness.

For McCollum, who will be playing in the first year of his $106 million deal, it is another indication of how he values his place and his legacy. Perhaps more so than any other Blazer, McCollum seems to have a career plan carefully mapped out, right down to his retirement portfolio. That plan is centered around leaving a legacy, as he likes to say, both on and off the court. Just 26, McCollum knows that the foundation of a legacy is better rooted in wins than stats.

Can’t ask to hear better stuff from your team’s stars.

Nurkic and the Blazers’ ‘trash’ defense

One of the more entertaining – but meaningful -- exchanges on Monday involved Blazers’ center Jusuf Nurkic who tried to suggest these Blazers take on the tough guy persona of the Bad Boys era in Detroit.

But aside from his questionable grasp of history (he likened the Bad Boys not to Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, etc. but instead to Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace), his point was spot on: The Blazers need to be tougher and play better defense.

“We need to play defense, number one,’’ Nurkic said. “Our defense was trash, to be honest, before … and we are going to be better. We are going to prove that. It’s simple: if you want to win, you have to play defense.’’

We’ve heard September talk by the Blazers about the importance of defense before, without great follow through until a mid-to-late-season breakthrough. The Blazers’ late-season defensive improvement last season coincided with Nurkic’s February arrival and the improved health of Al-Farouq Aminu, but it will be interesting to see if this team can establish a defensive identity early.

Do Blazers have a Biggie surprise?

Perhaps nothing raised the eyebrows more than hearing Blazers’ veterans heap effusive and widespread praise upon rookie big man Caleb Swanigan.

From the sounds of it, the No. 26 overall pick has the stuff to crack the rotation.

After Lillard said Swanigan had caught his attention over the last month during pickup games at the team’s practice facility, I asked Lillard if what he was seeing from Swanigan was good enough to play right away in the NBA.

“Yeah,’’ Lillard said confidently. “He’s definitely good enough to play right now.’’

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds for Purdue last season, appears to have a blend of Jerome Kersey hustle and Zach Randolph savvy around the basket.

“Very impressive,’’ Lillard said. “Just his confidence, how physical he was, and he has a knack for finding the ball … He’s just very sure of himself, and you don’t see that in rookies all the time.’’

Maurice Harkless said Swanigan “definitely” surprised him during pickup games.

“In my opinion, he’s been great so far,’’ Harkless said, adding that he too thinks Swanigan can play right away.

Portland fans can get their first views of Swanigan -- who goes by the  nickname "Biggie" -- on Sunday at the team’s Fan Fest (1 p.m.) or the team’s first exhibition on Oct. 3 against Phoenix.

What will they see?

“Constant effort,’’ Swanigan said.

Ed Davis back, and with a goal

Probably the most direct goal on Monday came from veteran Ed Davis, who says he wants to win the team’s vacant starting power forward spot.

Davis, a key element to the Blazers’ 44-win team two years ago, said he was cleared Monday by doctors to compete in 5-on-5 action after having his left shoulder surgically repaired last spring.

Last season, the Blazers first started Al-Farouq Aminu at power forward then transitioned to Noah Vonleh after Aminu struggled with injuries. Entering Tuesday’s first practice, Vonleh is out for at least a month because of an injured right shoulder and coach Terry Stotts said he envisions playing Aminu this season at both forward positions.

“My goal is I want to start,’’ Davis said. “I feel like that four position is open.’’

Davis, who is entering the final year of his contract, said he doesn’t need much to motivate him.

“I’m self motivated. I don’t need to go on Twitter or Instagram to get extra motivation … but it is a good thing as a player when you know there’s a chance you can start and play big minutes.’’

Harkless goal: Improve free throws

One of the biggest complaints from fans I hear over the years is why more NBA players don’t prioritize improving at the free throw line.

So it was refreshing to hear Monday that Harkless spent part of his summer working on his free throw stroke. Last season, Harkless shot 62.1 percent from the line, which raised his career percentage to 59.6 percent.

Harkless said he has set a goal for what he wants to shoot at the line, but declined to reveal it.

“My goal, my business,’’ he said.

The key to becoming  better at the line, Harkless said, is focus.

“A lot of it is just being able to focus more, block out everything else going on,’’ Harkless said. “I’ve always been a good shooter in practice and when I’m by myself. But over the course of a game a lot of things go in and out of your head when you are at the free throw line … I just have to be able to block out everything else.’’ 

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

nurkic_at_phoenix.jpg
USA Today

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

On the surface, it would appear this offseason brought little to no help to the Trail Blazers amid the NBA’s whirlwind summer of blockbuster trades and free agent acquisitions.

Aside from a salary-cap motivated move of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, and the drafting of 19-year-old center Zach Collins and Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers are largely the same group that went 41-41 and finished eighth in the Western Conference.

The Las Vegas betting line on Trail Blazers wins for the 2017-2018 season is 42.5 games, which would place them eighth in the West:

1. Golden State (67.5)

2. Houston (55.5)

3. San Antonio (54.5)

4. Oklahoma City (51.5)

5. Minnesota (48.5)

6. Denver (45.5)

7. LA Clippers (44.5)

8. Portland (42.5)

Of course, Las Vegas has been wrong before about the Blazers (remember 2015-2016 when the Blazers won 44 games after Vegas set the line at 26.5?), and it’s easy to get swept up in the headlines from an offseason that saw Chris Paul move to Houston, Paul George to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and Paul Millsap to Denver.

But behind the sexy headlines and tumultuous turnover, the Blazers have been  doing what has become a hallmark of this franchise: relying on improvement from within.

With that in mind, CSN this week will unveil five reasons the Blazers this season could exceed 42 wins and be better than people think:

Today: A full season of a more fit Jusuf Nurkic.

Monday: A healthy Ed Davis.

**

When it comes to explaining why center Jusuf Nurkic should be an object of optimism for the Trail Blazers’ season, pictures are more powerful than words.

#ripcity

A post shared by Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) on

Push yourself because, no one else is going to do it for you. #nurkfever #ripcity #timetowork

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We don't make excuses We make results #ripcity @toddforcier

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It's getting better every day. #beastfrom #wildwildeast #ripcity

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When the Bosnian 7-footer arrived in Portland last February, he was 309 pounds, unconditioned and mostly, unknown.

Today, one week from the start of Trail Blazers training camp, Nurkic is 275 pounds, fit, and one of the centerpieces of a team that has once again adopted an attitude of proving naysayers wrong.

Through a series of offseason workouts that were closely monitored by the team, Nurkic not only shed 34 pounds, he became more agile. In the process, the lost weight should take pressure off his lower extremities, which became a concern last season after he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula that kept him out of the season’s final seven games and all but one of the Blazers’ four playoff games.

Nurkic this month has been playing full court pickup games and is expected to have no medical obstacles or restraints when training camp starts on Sept. 26.

The prospects of what a slimmer, more fit Nurkic can accomplish is one of the reasons the Blazers could be better than Las Vegas, for one, has projected.

In 20 games after Nurkic was traded from Denver along with a first-round pick for Mason Plumlee, he averaged 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

More importantly, the Blazers went 14-6 in those 20 games, prompting a late-season surge into the playoffs.

And much of the noise during that run was made by Nurkic. If he wasn’t hitting big fourth-quarter shots at Oklahoma City, he was coming through in the clutch at San Antonio. And if he wasn’t dazzling with a rolling hook, he was delighting with a nifty inside pass. And when it seemed like he couldn’t have a bigger game than against Philadelphia, when he had 28 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists, he went and burned his former team in a crucial March game with 33 points and 15 rebounds.

He was so good that “Nurkic Fever” became a craze, memorialized on t-shirts and signs.

Can it get better?

Word is, his new physique has afforded him even more agility, which he has utilized to expand his offensive arsenal, which now includes step-back jumpers and more spin moves.

And now, with a full training camp and the familiarity of what is almost the same roster returning, it seems reasonable to expect bigger and better things out of the 23-year-old center.

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

CHICAGO – Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey on Thursday was a guest on NBA TV, during which he answered questions about the Blazers’ approach at the NBA Combine and the franchise’s strategy heading into the June 22 draft.

A transcript of Olshey’s interview with Scott Howard-Cooper:

Q: What are looking for when here?

Olshey: Here it is more about confirmation than evaluation. Look, a lot of the top 20 guys aren’t here but there are still guys we have to evaluate in terms of things we can’t see when they are with their college programs. We are getting the metrics, the metrics testing, the interviews are critical in terms of getting to know these guys. We haven’t really spoken to them in person. It’s nice we are getting more guys participating in the 5-on-5; it allows us to see them later in the year, what they have done with their body, maybe they played a different position on their college team than they are playing out here … it gives us a chance to see them play more our style of basketball. Anytime you can get in the gym with guys, or get to be around them, it makes our process easier because we have a bigger sample size.

Q: Does your gut tell you you won’t have three rookies in camp come October?

Olshey: (laughs) No, it doesn’t, really. Look, we’ve been rebuilding the organization based on Damian Lillard’s timeline and we’ve been lucky enough to be a playoff team in both of those years.  So, look, it’s whatever the best decision long term for the franchise is: If that’s three rookies, it’s three rookies. If that’s an aggregation of picks to go get an impact player, then that’s what it will be. We have a very aggressive owner, we are very lucky to have one that doesn’t shy away from a high payroll; he loves young talent and in a market like Portland, where we have been most successful, has been drafts and player development.

Q: What are your thoughts on using picks to get veteran player who can help now opposed to rookies who might take time?

Olshey: I think we have the luxury of doing either. We had the youngest team in the league last year. We had the youngest team in the playoffs for the second year in a row. We are all on a timeline with young stars like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who haven’t even entered their prime yet. So we can be more patient. I think we have a longer runway, so it’s not a matter of the urgency. All of our players are under long-term contracts, or we control their rights. So we are building long term. The end game is to hopefully win a championship in Portland. If we can accelerate that process because we’ve got the three picks in a very deep draft, where these picks are coveted and we can get a player on a timeline from a team that is maybe going in another direction, we will absolutely push our chips in and do that. But if it’s about finding more stars to join our young guys with Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, and they are out here (at the Combine), then that’s what we will do. 

Stotts: Nurkic's presence "spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is"

Stotts: Nurkic's presence "spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is"

Terry Stotts did not hesitate Sunday afternoon to rule Jusuf Nurkic out of Monday night's Game 4 of the Portland-Golden State series in Moda Center.

"No," he said when asked whether Nurkic would play. "He's out."

Why?

"Just, more than anything, he didn’t do any further damage but there was soreness, tenderness and it just wouldn’t be wise to have him play through that," said the Portland coach.

Stotts had plenty of good things to say about Nurkic and the decision to play Saturday night against the Warriors.

"I was really pleased that he (played)" Stotts said. "He had a really positive impact on the game with his passing and his presence and his rebounding. He takes up some space and I thought he gave his teammates a lot of confidence.

"It was a really good effort. He’s a big part of our team. Not only a good effort for these playoffs and this team but, I think, moving forward.  It spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is."

 

It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

For quite a while Saturday night during the interminable telethon that NBA playoff games have become, it appeared that the Trail Blazers had found the right formula to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Jusuf Nurkic was back, if but a shell of his usual self. The Trail Blazers seem to take inspiration from his return to the lineup, even though he was dragging a broken leg up and down the court. But it wasn't just the inspiration. Nurkic got his team off to a great start with just his presence. The Portland pick-and-roll offense was suddenly potent again, with Nurkic planting a brickwall of a pick and then rolling down the lane toward the basket. There was either an open three or a pass to Nurkic -- and he'd find the open man with his usual knack for such things.

It was nice while it lasted -- he had 11 rebounds and four assists -- and the Nurkic Effect lasted much longer than the 16 and a half minutes he spent on the court. There was an obvious lift. The Blazers played gallantly until the inevitable Warrior surge, about midway through the third quarter. At that point, the Blazers were hanging on for dear life -- trying to get an open shot for Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum against a defense that was willing to allow open shots for anyone but them.

Moda Center was loud and proud most of the night but the tale of this playoff series was never a mystery. The Blazers lost for the third time and there's a fourth one headed their way Monday night. This Golden State team is too much for them and probably too much for anyone else in the league.

But for just under 17 Nurkic minutes Saturday night there was a glimpse of the future, a snapshot of things to come.

Nurkic makes this team better. Much better, even in the condition he was Saturday.

He confessed to a lot of pain after the game and I think it would be unwise to put him through all of that again Monday. I don't think it was a mistake to play him in this game because I trust Portland's medical staff to know what's best for him and the franchise. He got a taste of the playoffs and his teammates found a rallying point. He was pretty much the last card the Blazers had left to play in the series.

Throughout the last few weeks none of us knew exactly what kind of shape he was in. There was hope that when he came back he would be near 100 percent. As it turned out, he was nowhere close ("I'm not the same guy," he said). And for just 15 or 16 minutes a game, I don't think it's worth doing it again. He tried it and it was what it was -- a fun time for us if not for him. He showed the kind of impact he can have when he's right and tried his best to help his squad win one game.

The mission of getting him on the floor was accomplished, if not the part about winning a game. But at this point, it's all about being healthy for next season.

And all about the dreams of what a franchise center can do for this team.

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Jusuf Nurkic finally played Saturday night... and it seemed to give the Portland Trail Blazers a little spark. For a while, that spark turned into a raging fire as the Blazers jumped to leads as high as 16 points over the Golden State Warriors. But in the end, the Warriors doused that fire with solid fourth-quarter defense and timely shooting.

The end result was a 119-113 win that pushed Golden State into a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues Monday night in Moda Center. CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and Damian Lillard added 31. Steph Curry had 34 for the Warriors.

The lead seesawed throughout the fourth quarter as two seemingly tired teams traded punches. Portland's shooting percentage, over .500 most of the night, dipped and the Warriors' rose.

The Trail Blazers came out on fire – and the crowd was deep into it when Portland had  an 11-3 lead as the Warriors called a timeout with 9:11 to go in the first quarter. Portland opened the game by hitting its first five shots from the field.

Nurkic, who received a thunderous ovation when introduced with the starting lineup, scored his first basket 2:26 into the game on a bank shot in the lane over Zaza Pachulia.

He left the floor at the 7:06 mark of the quarter and played about five minutes per quarter. He finished with two points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes.

The Warriors withstood Portland’s opening salvo and crawled to within four points late in the quarter but the Trail Blazers held a 37-30 lead ater the first quarter behind Lillard’s 15 points, fueled by 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

Portland shot 57.7 percent from the field in the opening period and held Golden State to 38.5 percent. But the Blazers had seven turnovers over the first 12 minutes while the Warriors had but one.

In the second quarter Portland stretched the lead as high as 16 as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson struggled from the field for the Warriors.

Lillard and McCollum were the backbone of the Portland offense in the first half, combining for 39 points. The Blazers led 67-54 at halftime on the strength of 53 percent shooting. Portland also held a 29-14 rebound edge at halftime.

The lead ballooned to 16 again in the third but then the Warriors made one of their patented runs and closed to within 82-78 when the Blazers called for a timeout with 3:29 left in the third. Golden State turned up its defense and Portland had trouble getting open shots all of a sudden. By the end of the quarter the Blazers were clinging to an 88-87 lead.

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Bleak? Trail Blazers say series with Warriors hasn't started yet

Bleak? Trail Blazers say series with Warriors hasn't started yet

Like so many times before, the outlook is bleak today for the Trail Blazers, this time facing an 0-2 hole as they head into Saturday’s Game 3 against Golden State.

But inside the Blazers, they view life with a different lens.

Much like they were last season when they faced an 0-2 deficit to the Clippers in the first round, and much like this winter, when they were 11 games under .500 and three games out of a playoff spot, this team has shown a penchant for postponing their funeral.

So while the rest of the basketball world plans their tidy demise in four games to the mighty Warriors, the Blazers remained bold, if not brash, in their hope.

“We still believe we can beat them – don’t get it twisted,’’ captain Damian Lillard said. “They won the first two games, we competed well in the first, a blowout in the second, but after the game, scores don’t carry over.

“We feel like we matchup well … we feel like we can beat them.’’

Amid the flurry of clichés trumpeted after Friday’s practice – “a series doesn’t start until someone wins a road game” and “it’s never over until it’s over” – none carried more weight than the body of work in the last two seasons by the core of this team.

“I mean, look at the way our season went,’’ Maurice Harkless said, noting the Blazers 24-35 record entering March. “We rallied and found a way to make the playoffs. Right now, it’s similar: Our backs are against the wall and we have to find a way to rally and make it a series.’’

CJ McCollum said he figures the stubborn fight of the Blazers comes from the backgrounds of their roster. Both he and Lillard went to small schools after being unheralded coming out of high school. Harkless was traded to Portland by Orlando for virtually nothing. Allen Crabbe was a second-round pick. And players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Shabazz Napier have nearly played for as many teams as they have years of NBA service.

“Being counted out, it takes a certain determination, a certain mindset to overcome and have success,’’ McCollum said.

A mindset is one thing. Having enough talent and the ability to execute against the NBA’s best team is another.

The refrain from many of the Blazers players was the 110-81 Game 2 loss – which came with Golden State star Kevin Durant sidelined – meant nothing. Yet, those same players were quick to point out their competitive Game 1 loss, when the score was tied heading into the fourth quarter.

“We have to compete for a full game – I don’t think we’ve done that yet,’’ Harkless said. “We’ve had quarters, we’ve had halves, but we haven’t put together a full game. Game 3 we have to put a full game together.’’

Portland in last season’s playoffs lost the first two at Golden State then won Game 3 in Portland. This season, Portland finished the season with eight wins in a row at home before a loss to New Orleans in the season finale. Golden State this season won both games in Portland, although Evan Turner had a chance to win the second meeting with a three pointer that was off.

The Blazers on Friday “upgraded” center Jusuf Nurkic from out to doubtful for Game 3, which is a step forward but still a regression from the questionable designation he was given for Game 1.

Nurkic or not, Lillard says this is not the time to plan vacations.

“Had we given up after the second game last year (to the Clippers) and come into Game 3 with our heads down, and maybe it doesn’t even matter … maybe we go home in the first round,’’ Lillard said. “It just goes to show that you just never know.’’

The Trail Blazers are all over the place when assessing Nurkic's playing status

The Trail Blazers are all over the place when assessing Nurkic's playing status

Apparently there have been some real ups and downs with Jusuf Nurkic's healing process. Excuse me, but I'm kidding. I doubt if that non-displaced fracture is as volatile as the team's injury reports make it sound.

In case you haven't noticed, the Trail Blazers are about to play Game 3 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and Nurkic's status has been different on each pre-game injury report. And it hasn't even trended entirely in one direction.

Prior to Game 1 of the series, his status was listed as "questionable" -- and in NBA parlance the Trail Blazers say that means a 50-50 chance that he would play. Before Game 2 he was declared "out " -- as in no chance of playing. And now for Game 3 in Moda Center Saturday night, he's been "upgraded to doubtful" -- which is supposed to mean the chance is 75 percent that he won't play, but obviously a 25 percent chance he will. "Probable," by the way, means there's a 75 percent chance he would play.

Interesting. And also quite intriguing that the only game he was listed as "out" was the game in which he spoke to reporters the day before the game and declared himself out -- saying he wasn't yet ready to play. Friday he wasn't made available to the media. Hmm. Maybe they've decided not to let him give any more updates.

I must say I'm a little puzzled by the differing distinctions if these reports are actually based on a day-to-day assessment of the condition of his injury. So a week ago there was a better chance he'd play than there is now? And just a couple of days ago there was no chance he could play? Now, there's a small chance, they say. That's quite a healing pattern.

Either that's a pretty fragile situation with his leg or someone is just playing games with the injury report. Even then, it would seem to make more sense merely to list him as "questionable" prior to every game -- leaving the Warriors in doubt about his status until an hour or so before each game.

If anyone asks me about his status, by the way, I now have a one-word answer:

"Whatever."

 

 

Nurkic still out... and here's how he could have made a difference

Nurkic still out... and here's how he could have made a difference

OAKLAND -- Jusuf Nurkic Tuesday put an end to any mystery about his availability for Game 2 of Portland's first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

He's not playing Wednesday night. He didn't feel ready for it, he said before the team's practice. And, in fact, he was not going to practice Tuesday, either. The video of the interview accompanies this post but as you will hear, he's doing better. And he's also not ready to make any predictions about his appearance in future games.

But he did say he's had a full practice -- and a contact practice, at that.

So there you go. That's about all anyone knows about the situation.

How will it go Wednesday night without him?

Not well, I'd expect. After the first game of the series -- a 121-109 Warrior win Sunday afternoon -- it was obvious how the seven-foot center could help Portland attack Golden State at both ends of the court. His presence at the offensive end would probably force the Warriors into using centers Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee more minutes, something they don't want to do. Pachulia played just 12:28 in Game 1 and McGee played 9:41. Golden State prefers its small lineup, which usually features defensive wizard Draymond Green in the middle.

Now THAT would be an interesting matchup. Green has had success against true centers but Nurkic would be a handful for him. And at least he'd be enough of a threat that he'd keep Green from wandering around blocking shots from the rest of the Trail Blazers.

On defense, Nurkic would provide rim protection that Portland didn't have Sunday. Golden State's 44 points in the paint Sunday was not a huge number, but the Warriors made 22 of their 33 shots in that area and it would help if that percentage came down.

But we won't know, at least for at least one more game, what the Nurkic Effect would be. Or maybe we won't find out during this series at all. Nurkic provided no real clues about the future on Tuesday.

 

Blazers announce Jusuf Nurkic is questionable for Game 1 at Golden State

Blazers announce Jusuf Nurkic is questionable for Game 1 at Golden State

On the eve of their opening playoff game, the Trail Blazers on Saturday listed center Jusuf Nurkic as questionable on their injury report.

Nurkic has missed two weeks with a fractured fibula in his right leg, during which the Blazers went 4-3. He has been re-evaluated this week -- he had an X-Ray on Wednesday -- but the team on Friday said his status for Sunday's Game 1 was undetermined. 

The injury report, which is required to be filed by 5 p.m. the night before a game, has four designations - probable (75 percent chance of playing); questionable (50 percent chance); doubtful (25 percent chance) and out. 

Nurkic was not made available to the media after Saturday's practice. He was in full practice uniform and was shooting with Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh when the media was let into practice.  Coach Terry Stotts said Nurkic "was not an active participant" during the team's workout, but said he was present and absorbing the team's game plan. 

The Blazers went 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup. In 20 games in Portland, he averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 blocks in 29 minutes a game. He suffered his injury in the March 28 game against Denver, and played 32 minutes the next game against Houston, when he had 19 points and 11 rebounds and played to the buzzer.

Damian Lillard, the Blazers' captain, was asked what Nurkic did during Saturday's practice. He smiled.

"No comment,'' Lillard said.

The Blazers also listed Allen Crabbe (foot) as probable and Tim Quarterman (concussion) as questionable. Ed Davis (shoulder) and Festus Ezeli (knee) are out.