The biggest question in Portland remained unanswered Friday when Jusuf Nurkic and the Trail Blazers left his availability up in the air for Sunday’s playoff opener at Golden State.
“I feel better,’’ Nurkic said Friday. “I make good progress. But I think we are still undecided if I will play.’’
Nurkic, who has missed the last two weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula, later said if it was up to him, he would play in Game 1.
“If it’s up to me, I play right now, but it’s not my decision,’’ Nurkic said. “We will decide together what we can do.’’
Coach Terry Stotts called Nurkic’s status “undetermined.’’
“Jusuf is improved, his leg is better, he’s made good progress,’’ Stotts said.
The Blazers watched film on Friday, and Stotts said he did not know if Nurkic will take part in Saturday’s practice in Portland before the team flies to San Francisco.
Stotts says he imagines Nurkic’s status won’t be revealed until the Blazers arrive at Sunday’s Game 1.
Nurkic is key to the Blazers’ chances against Golden State (67-15), which secured the NBA’s best record for the third consecutive season.
The 7-foot-0, 280-pound center ignited the Blazers’ late-season turnaround when he arrived in a Feb. 12 trade with Denver. The Blazers went 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup, as his deft passing, reliable pick-and-roll play and strong rim protection changed the Blazers’ style of play as much as their results.
“We are a much better team with him; it showed when we got him,’’ captain Damian Lillard said.
The Blazers went 4-3 without Nurkic, who was never casted or fitted with a walking boot. He twice had pregame workouts – for about 10 minutes on April 6 and 25 minutes before the season’s last game on April 12 – and showed no signs of pain or limp.
He suffered the injury during a March 28 game against Denver, when he had 33 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. The next game, against Houston, he started and played 32 minutes – playing until the final buzzer – while compiling 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
On Wednesday, Nurkic said he had X-rays but he didn’t know the results of the images. He said he doesn’t feel limited in any way by his right leg but did say, like any other player at this time of season, he is experiencing pain.
“I feel good, that’s the biggest key for me,’’ Nurkic said. “I make progress.’’
Nurkic in 20 games with Portland averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 blocks in 29 minutes a game.