Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers

Take it from Jusuf Nurkic, he’s overjoyed to be back playing basketball with his teammates -- whether it’s in the team’s practice facility or in the bubble at Disney World.

For Nurk, it seems like a real-life Magic Kingdom.

“It’s a blessing,” Nurkic said after Sunday’s afternoon workout. “Fourteen months, doing the first practice with the team, full squad pretty much. Just a joy, excitement and the passion. I’m loving the basketball -- something I was really missing.

“Everything is so far, great. I’m continuing to try to do my job and get as ready as possible with the team. As far as healthy, zero concerns, man. It’s a lame question.”

Nurkic is getting his first experience playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, after watching him from the sidelines during the earlier part of the season.

”It’s a funny moment,” Nurkic said. “You have a guy with experience like that, the way we’re going to use him. Funny how he slows the game down. The isolation… and he’s able to play his normal position, where he used to play.

“I think it gives us a better opportunity to play better offensive basketball. I think he’s going to make the right read -- take a shot or pass -- and I’m really excited to play with him.”

And Anthony will enjoy the experience, too.

“He’s a playmaker,” Anthony said. “Anytime you have a playmaker up top controlling the offense, getting the ball out of Dame and CJ’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.”

Nurkic’s passing skills are always a topic. He’s been a perfect fit in the team’s flow offense with his ability to pass teammates open like a great football quarterback. And from any spot on the floor.

“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.”

And Coach Terry Stotts has increased Nurkic’s chances of using those playmaking skills, allowing the guards to get more opportunities off the ball.

“I think Coach Stotts and his staff kind of recognized me and are able to use me on the post, on the perimeter or the top of the key,” Nurkic said, “The more I’ve had the ball in my hands, the more they trust me even more.

“I think I’ve been here three-plus years now. They know me as a person and a player. They try to use me as much as possible in that playmaker option -- to make the right decision.”