Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was all set to make his triumphant return on Sunday, Mar. 15 against the Houston Rockets.
It was a home game for the Blazers.
An early matinee game on national television.
It was 10 days away from Nurk’s one-year mark of his leg injury.
And to the Bosnian Beast, it was a “perfect” game to make his debut for the 2019-20 season.
In choosing that day to return, it was a collective effort by Nurkic’s camp along with the entire Trail Blazers organization.
In a recent interview with NBC Sports Northwest’s Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes, Nurk detailed what went into the decision making of that game.
“It was basically, I was taking my rehab and try [to] really focus on day-by-day. When I felt like I was like with the last exam I have with the doctors, and my agents and, of course, with the team and organization, we kind of looked to the dates and it was like, ‘are you okay with this?’ And I was like, ‘how about this?’ So, we figured out that date. It was like perfect,” Nurkic said.
That ‘perfect’ day was a special one because of the time of tip-off as well.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is 9 hours ahead of Portland, OR; thus, the timing of a noon tip-off in Rip City also worked out great for his family and friends back home.
It was an earlier game Sunday, and of course, I need to look [out] for my people back home. It was perfect for them too. It was like 8:30pm back home. So, everybody was pretty much set up and I thought it was a really good game because it was [a] home game and I really wanted to play [at] home first. -- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic told our Dwight Jaynes
Days leading up to Nurkic’s impending return, the rumors began swirling that the NBA was looking at the possibility of playing games with no fans in attendance. Of course, that all changed quickly when Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the decision to suspend play.
But, days before the NBA hiatus, Nurkic was hopeful that he would be able to play in his first game back while fans cheered him on -- that was a big concern of his at the time.
Having Trail Blazers fans greet him with a warm welcome back at Moda Center was weighing on his mind and rightfully so -- he had been waiting for this moment for nearly a year.
Of course, there was the rumors about how there was no fans, start of the coronavirus more and I was just – ‘let me play one game with the fans, then the rest I would figure out.’ -- Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic
More than anything though that Mar. 15 date circled on Nurk and everyone’s calendar, was the day that the Bosnian Beast thought fit his timetable of checking off his last few rehab benchmarks before getting back out on the floor.
“I think it was really good timing and I still believe we was on the right track to make [the] playoffs.”
Now, as the anticipation of Nurk’s return, as well as the NBA’s return grows, the 7-footer says he is in favor of a play-in tournament for the playoffs if the NBA decides to go that route.