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Jusuf Nurkic says he’s returning for Trail Blazers-Rockets on March 15

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic

PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 25: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts in the second quarter while injured against the Boston Celtics during their game at Moda Center on February 25, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

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The Trail Blazers – 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies and with the Kings, Spurs and Pelicans lurking – have a narrow path to the playoffs.

Enter a wide man – Jusuf Nurkic.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who has been sidelined for almost a year after a devastating leg injury, told Yahoo Sports he will make his season debut March 15 against the Houston Rockets.

This will be nearly a year after Nurkic got hurt.

Hassan Whiteside has been fine as a stop-gap starting center in Nurkic’s absence. Portland will have to determine which of those two will start and finish and how much playing time each will get. Nurkic’s conditioning after a long layoff will obviously factor.

The Trail Blazers have been a wreck at backup center all season. Whoever comes off the bench, Nurkic or Whiteside will provide a big upgrade in that role.

Portland has a superstar in Damian Lillard. Nurkic is returning. Zach Collins could get healthy. The Trail Blazers could be more dangerous in the playoffs than the typical No. 8 seed with a mediocre record.

If they get in.