Jusuf Nurkic

Is there better news for Trail Blazer fans than Nurkic, Collins in the gym?

Is there better news for Trail Blazer fans than Nurkic, Collins in the gym?

It was a day full of optimism at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility Wednesday.

Sure, new players Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel were on hand for their first practice with their team.

But that was not the headline news.

Everywhere you looked, there were positive signs in regard to injured players.

There was Zach Collins, going through on-court drills with a basketball -- shooting short jumpers and even left-handed layups -- as he recovers from a torn labrum. No full workout with the team yet, but on the court and even shooting with his (injured) left arm.

At the other end of the court, there was CJ McCollum working out with coaches -- running full speed as he shot and went through defensive drills -- as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

But most of all, there was news -- big news -- of Jusuf Nurkic going through a contact practice, albeit mostly halfcourt, as he recovers from his broken left leg.

Nobody was willing to say how soon Nurkic could be back playing in games, but just the news of him playing full speed in practice is reason for optimism.

He is a difference maker.

Coach Terry Stotts didn’t get specific about how Nurkic did on the floor but teammates spoke highly of how he played. Stotts did point out that this section of the schedule has been pinpointed for a while as a good spot for his return, because the team has two days off between three different home games.

And maybe not coincidentally, it’s also prior to the NBA trade deadline of noon, Pacific time, Feb. 6. So if the Trail Blazers were inclined to deal Hassan Whiteside and his expiring contract, theoretically Nurkic would be ready to play or very close to ready.

Don’t take this wrong. McCollum is the only one of the three injured players whose return to active duty is believed to be imminent.

But with serious injuries the likes of the ones Nurkic and Collins suffered, this sort of progress is what fans have been waiting to hear about.

Media, too. Win or lose, this team is a lot more fun to watch with those players on the floor.

A source of optimism: Jusuf Nurkic one step closer to returning to NBA action

A source of optimism: Jusuf Nurkic one step closer to returning to NBA action

TUALATIN – Over the past few weeks, we have seen Jusuf Nurkic go through individual workouts, but it wasn’t until today when Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard shared the news that the Bosnian Beast was looking like himself in practice. 

Nurk practiced full speed, contact, up and down, seeing him out there – like being himself and not looking like he was struggling – seeing Zach [Collins] out here right now, seeing how well Trev [Ariza] looked in practice – it just felt good. It was like… almost like a pick me up. I feel good about it. -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkc  

Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula on March 26th, 2019.

Until now, Nurkic has only been seen doing individual workouts. 

[RELATED: The ultimate Jusuf Nurkic rehabilitation highlight reel]

There is still no official word on his return to an NBA game, but this development is encouraging.

Now as Rip City awaits the Bosnian Beasts return, everyone is wondering will it be soon?

“I do” Lillard said of getting the sense that Nurkic is nearing his return.

Lillard added, “I’m not involved in the situation…. I’m not a doctor, I’m not inside his body, but he looked good to me.”

“I’ve seen him doing contact stuff, but he really looked good.”  

Caleb Swanigan, who is now back with the team after Saturday’s trade has now become official, has banged up against Nurkic at practice many times.

Swanigan gave his thoughts on how Nurk was looking out there today:

“Nurk’s Nurk, man. He’s got a great feel for the game. He plays well. There was a couple of times when he lost the ball…  Nurk looked good,” Swanigan said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told the media this was the first time Nurkic has gone through a practice like this.  

“He went through the full practice. It was mostly half court stuff, but he went through everything… We did four-on-four, five-on-five half court stuff today. He’s been doing that with coaches and some of the younger guys, but this is the first time it was five-on-five… He looked fine.”

“He’s been progressing to this point. I guess, it’s a milestone, but it’s just part of his progression... It was hopeful that this week would be an opportunity for him to ramp up his workouts, but as far as anything else beyond that -- it’s too early to say,” Stotts added.

Nurkic wasn’t the only getting after it today.

Zach Collins went through an individual workout after practice.

Having both of the Trail Blazers big men looking more like themselves, is giving Lillard hope.

These developments are a welcomed sight in Rip City!

As much as we love the mustard and plaid suits, we’re ready to see Jusuf Nurkic back in uniform

As much as we love the mustard and plaid suits, we’re ready to see Jusuf Nurkic back in uniform

The highly anticipated return of Jusuf Nurkic is ramping up in Rip City.

You see him on the bench: a large, 7-foot, 200 pound man with a shaggy, longer hairdo and sporting a suit that looks like it came straight from he 1980’s. From the looks of his bench activity, one would think Nurk is getting close to returning to the court. After Carmelo Anthony dove out of bounds to save a possession on Monday night against the Charlotte Hornets, the first man to pick him up was Nurk who strutted 50 feet across the baseline to do so.

Yes, he’s just walking over to pick Melo up, but it’s a sign in a positive direction.

During an interview on Tuesday morning with Rip City Morning hosts Dan Sheldon and Nigel Burton, Portland Coach Terry Sttots gave as much of an update on Nurk as he could, which wasn’t much:

All I can tell you is that he is doing what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s in the weight room, he’s on the court. He has not had a practice. He plays 2-on-2, 3-on-3 with the coaches so there’s minimal contact but he is being able to cut and do things like that. Obviously, he hasn’t been able to play against NBA players, which they’ll be time for that. Right now, I can’t tell you more than what’s been said. — Terry Stotts

The question of “when” we see Nurk back on the court has been circling as the anticipated date of his return was rumored to be in February around the All-Star break. Well, we are just one month out from that but Stotts has not given a timeline.

Once again, we have not put a timeline on it. — Terry Stotts

The seas are rough, but the Blazers ship isn't sinking

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USATI

The seas are rough, but the Blazers ship isn't sinking

The 2019-2020 season for the Trail Blazers has been rough. It started with championship aspirations and quickly plummeted to disaster.  Zach Collins was lost to a dislocated shoulder, Rodney Hood was lost to an Achilles rupture, and Jusuf Nurkic still has yet to return from a fractured leg he suffered late last season. Minor injuries, such at the back spasm plague, sidelined Damian Lillard, Nassir Little, and Mario Hezonja at various points of the season, while CJ McCollum missed Sunday's game against Miami with an upper respiratory illness. Now, it seems in its current form that just making the playoffs would be a feat in and of itself. To say the season has been tough is an understatement. 

The seas are rough right now. The ship is being battered, but it isn't sinking. Calm waters are ahead and there are many, many reasons to still have hope for this team and I'm going to tell you why. But before I do, let me just say that this not saying that fans can't be upset. Some of the anger from the fan base is irrational, sure, but that's what fandom is. You live and die with your team. You feel the joy of their success, and you feel the pain of their failure. That's ok. But just know that no one hates losing as much as the players in that locker room. They want to win just as bad as you want them to, but circumstances have hindered their ability to.  

Now, as I said, there are smooth seas ahead. Here are just a few reasons why fans should still be hyped for the Blazers:

- The Return of Jusuf Nurkic: Nurkic is inching closer and closer to a return to the court, and when he does finally hit the floor the Blazers will be an entirely different team. Nurkic's ability to run the offense as a point-center is something the Hassan Whiteside just can't do. Don't get me wrong, Whiteside has been great for this team, he is just a much different player than Nurkic is. The return of Nurkic can also give Stotts the ability to play both of them on the floor at once, much like he did with Whiteside and Skal Labissiere. Portland could have two elite rebounders on the floor, which would be huge considering their struggles on the glass. So many things change with Nurkic's return, and that return may be closer than we think. 

- They are still in the playoff hunt: Despite how bad things have been, the Blazers are just a half-game out of eighth place. If the Blazers can manage to string some wins together they can still make the playoffs. Honestly, what more could you ask for? Tanking makes no sense, as this is not a deep draft class, and making the playoffs despite all the adversity would be phenomenal. They are in this position without Nurkic. As stated above., if he returns everything could change. Not to mention there is still a sliver of hope that Zach Collins makes a return before the season ends. Portland could limp through the season, then have two of their best defensive players and key playmakers back for a playoff run. That sounds like must-watch basketball to me. 

- The trade deadline: This deadline is intriguing because it can make or break the future of the Blazers. A lot has been made about Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and even a trade for LaMarcus Aldridge, but those just don't make sense to me. Why? Because they are all power forwards. Why make a move that fills a hole for the rest of this season, but hurts the progress of Zach Collins in the long run? Zach was your starting power forward before his injury, and he is the guy this team wants at that position in the future. To me, this team will be going after two things at the deadline: A starting-caliber small forward and players that can be key bench contributors next season. Rodney Hood will not likely be ready for the start of next season, and last year you saw how integral he can be as a rotational play. If you upgrade at that position, you do it. Portland can't really afford to let Bazemore and Whiteside's contracts expire, so all eyes will be on them between now and the February 6th trade deadline.

- The window hasn't closed: All feels lost at the moment. But if you take a second and step back, the future is bright. Regardless of how this season plays out, the Blazers will start next season with a healthy roster, with the possible exception of Hood. Depending on how they do at the deadline and in the offseason, they could once again be primed for a big season and playoff run. Remember, that is how this season was supposed to be. This is a much different team if Collins, Hood, Labissiere, and Pau Gasol are healthy and contributing.  Without them, you always knew it was going to be rough. 

I know I'm more or less stating the obvious here, but sometimes just taking a second to read it and think about more than just another tough road loss helps the healing process. There is still plenty to root for.

Heck, you have the Blazers when some cities don't even have a basketball team at all. That's reason enough to be happy, right?

The Blazers may be losing, but the locker room remains calm. There aren't any detractors. No one is stirring things up to make for an uncomfortable locker room. They could be. But they're not.  

Things may get worse before it gets better for the Blazers, but it will get better. Until then just buckle up, hunker down, and do your best not to get seasick as Portland plows through the storm. 

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers are encouraged by Jusuf Nurkic's progress

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USA Today Images

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers are encouraged by Jusuf Nurkic's progress

With Portland dropping their last five consecutive games, the Trail Blazers have been looking for answers.

Before the Trail Blazers and Wizards tip-off at 4:00p.m. PT tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his team is continuing to work through their defensive issues.

“We’re searching. Our defense needs to get better… Defensively we’ve been very inconsistent, we’ve got to find our way there.”

Coach Stotts was also asked about the progress of big man Jusuf Nurkic as Nurk continues to rehab his left leg.

[He's] getting to the point where he can get out on the floor. He’s met all the goals or bars or whatever you want to call it, but I think everybody is encouraged with his improvement, but when he’s ready to get on the floor, when he’s ready physically, the next challenge will be mentally to get back into the fight. -- Blazers head coach Terry Stotts pregame on Jusuf Nurkic’s progress

Stotts also added that Nurkic has yet to go through a practice with the team. He has been going through individual workouts, but has not gone through any five-on-five or three-on-three scrimmages or anything with too much contact.

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Mario Hezonja (back spasms) is questionable for tonight's game vs. the Wizards.

WIZARDS INJURY REPORT:

Bradley Beal (lower right leg soreness), Davis Bertans (right quad strain), Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction), Rui Hachimura (groin injury), CJ Miles (left wrist surgery), Moritz Wagner (sprained left ankle) and John Wall (left Achilles rehab) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

-- In two games against the Wizards last season, Damian Lillard averaged 34.5 points (38.0% FG, 25.0% 3-PT, 86.7% FT), 7.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and one steal. He shot a combined 26-of-30 from the free throw line against Washington last season. Lillard has scored at least 29 points in each of his last five matchups with the Wizards.

-- CJ McCollum averaged 19.0 points (34.1% FG, 28.6% 3-PT, 100% FT), 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in two games against Washington during the 2018-19 season. He has scored at least 25 points in three of his last five games against the Wizards.

Trail Blazers began season with six centers -- and now it's down to one

Trail Blazers began season with six centers -- and now it's down to one

And then there was one. Just one -- for right now, at least.

One Trail Blazer center left. And the team started training camp with five of them. Six, actually, if you want to count G-League rookie Moses Brown.

Saturday night, just 2:37 into what turned into a 128-120 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Skal Labissiere suffered an injury to his left knee and departed the game. Ironically, Labissiere was starting at power forward alongside Hassan Whiteside, as Coach Terry Stotts attempted to get more size in the game to counter the Lakers’ starting duo of Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee.

Results of Labissiere’s MRI are “pending,” according to Stotts.

Portland began the season with Zach Collins, who has served as a backup center previously, as the starting power forward but he was lost due to dislocated left shoulder. Veteran Hall of Fame center Pau Gasol began the season on the injured list and later retired. And Jusuf Nurkic, the expected starter when he returns from the broken leg he suffered last season.

Leaving Whiteside. Period. Depending on Labissiere’s status, Brown could be recalled from the G-League to fill a backup role.

But playing basketball without size in the frontcourt is a very difficult task, particularly against teams with plenty of size, such as the Lakers.

Portland stayed in the game until late in the third quarter, when Los Angeles got serious about going to Davis on lob passes or getting the ball deep to Dwight Howard. The Lakers finished with a 60-40 edge in points in the paint and that was the difference in the game.

“I mean, it’s tough any time you lose a teammate to an injury,” said Damian Lillard, who had 31 points and nine assists. “Just because you don’t know how serious it could be or how much time he’ll miss. It’s a guy who’s been in our rotation all season. It hurts even more, especially with us already dealing with so many injuries.

“I don’t care who’s on the floor or what we’re dealing with as far as injuries or what we’re up against – I mean, we’re all professionals. People pay a lot of money to come see us play and we get paid a lot of money to show up and do our jobs and perform. So, I think it’s obvious what we’re up against. We’ve got three of our starters out with tough injuries and we’re playing with guys who it’s their first year getting a lot of minutes… Everybody knows that, but it does us no good to use it as a crutch or make an excuse…”

Anthony Tolliver, a forward who got backup minutes at center, responded with his best shooting night of the season, hitting four of his five three-point shots. And Anfernee Simons had 14 points and six rebounds off the bench. Whiteside had 19 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.

But in the end, everything came down to the little things:

Portland is now too little. There aren’t enough big men. Which makes interior defense difficult. And at this point of the season, very little can be done about it.

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers just not what it once was, this time around

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers just not what it once was, this time around

Sitting in the relatively quiet Moda Center Wednesday night, one couldn’t help but notice the difference.

A year ago, a Golden State Warriors-Portland Trail Blazers game was an event. A happening. And the buzz in the arena was always palpable.

But a year later, it’s not the same. Injuries have torn big parts of these teams away, leaving them nothing close to the way they were just a year ago. The Warriors, of course, were hit the worst – losing Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, who departed via free agency after a playoff injury.

And as Portland closed out its 122-112 win over the Warriors in front of what was announced as a sellout crowd, you understood that all those empty seats were surely sold.

But a lot of people just chose not to show up and use them.

And a Moda game against the Warriors almost always featured a huge number of Golden State fans, wearing their jerseys, T-shirts or just blue and gold colors, screaming their lungs out for their team.

“I grew up a Golden State Warriors fan,” Damian Lillard said. “And my family didn’t have the most money. And we were able to get season tickets. It wasn’t a sold-out arena. Steph and Klay and Draymond have done a great thing and turned it into a real championship organization and a great organization. (And) Steve Kerr. And then they have had some bad things happen.

“Usually, when we played them here, it looked like a Golden State (home) game. And all of a sudden, there ain’t none of those people showing up to support the team. I mean, that was just weird to me.”

Portland had a 13-point lead late in the first quarter, two 10-point leads in the second quarter and a nine-point lead in the third, but Kerr’s Warriors wouldn’t quit. They worked the offensive boards for 27 second-chance points but Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 61 points to go with Hassan Whiteside’s 23 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony’s 17 points to pull Portland to the win.

“An emotional rollercoaster ride,” McCollum called it. “I go out and approach it the same way, as if Steph and Klay are out there. Those guys play hard. They’re NBA players, quality guys who are still trying to prove themselves in the league.

“You’ve got to play the game. Not the record, not the schedule – not anything. You’ve got to play the game. And tonight, we did that for the most part and at times, they outplayed us.”

And they did it without Steph and Klay. Just as Portland did it without Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood.

And frankly, it was not the same without them.

Is that a boy band? Is that hair care salesmen? No, it's Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic

Is that a boy band? Is that hair care salesmen? No, it's Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic

In a time where NBA fashion is at an all time high, the Portland Trail Blazers big men are killing it. You may have noticed Jusuf Nurkic growing out his luscious locks or Zach Collins sporting the latest tailored suit, but you got to admit it, they look pretty darn good. 

At least, we thought so. The internet may have had other opinions on Wednesday night against the visiting Golden State Warriors:

Even Kyle Kuzma got in on the action!

 

Here's where to go if you're looking to place blame for Trail Blazers' rough start

Here's where to go if you're looking to place blame for Trail Blazers' rough start

PHOENIX – The Trail Blazers have struggled through the early season and a segment of the fan base is always looking to blame someone.

And rather than simply looking at the injury list and being done with it, they’re trying to blame just about everyone but Blaze the Trail Cat.

What I’m hearing a lot is the idea that the team should have held on to Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. And should not have “let go” of Enes Kanter and Seth Curry.

I’ve dealt with this before, but this seems like a good time to go over it again.

First, let’s differentiate between trades and free agency. Kanter and Curry were free agents last summer and it wasn't a matter of the team "letting them go." The Trail Blazers knew they would be priced out of the market for Curry, who had a very good season with Portland. He eventually re-signed with Dallas, where he played before he became a Trail Blazer, for $32 million over four years. That was out of Portland’s reach, since all it could offer was the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.7 million.

Kanter was given the first call by Neil Olshey last summer at the onset of free agency and he vacillated on his decision to take the TMLE. So, Portland went to its second choice, Rodney Hood, who had been off to a career year before suffering a season-ending injury. A good move, obviously … and Kanter ended up signing with Boston for about a million bucks less than he would have made in Portland.

Now, let’s get to the other three players. Harkless and Leonard went to Miami in a deal for Hassan Whiteside, who is in the final season of his contract. Whiteside was brought in to give the Trail Blazers a replacement at center for Jusuf Nurkic, who isn’t expected back until sometime in the new year. Bazemore, also on an expiring deal, came in a trade with Atlanta for Evan Turner.

Both those deals allowed Portland to preserve cap space for one more big trade – hopefully for a major star making a lot of money with multiple years left on his deal. Since the Blazers have had little luck luring free agents to town, the idea of making a deal for a big-time player who would be under their contractual control for a while, is the next best thing.

And it's also a big (and expensive) commitment to building a team that can compete for a championship.

OK, that said, those trades have turned out just fine for Portland and I’m tired of hearing how much the departed players have been missed. I’m not knocking them in any way, but the fact is, what came in return has been very good for this team.

Whiteside has averaged 16.2 points. 12.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.4 blocked shots per game this season. Leonard, Harkless and Aminu (who is now hurt) have COMBINED for 15.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season.

And oh yes, a player by the name of Carmelo Anthony was added to the mix a while back – amidst all sorts of pleas from fans begging them not to do it because of fears about the bad raps that have dogged Anthony,

But so far, Anthony has been a solid player who has blended seamlessly with his new teammates. And, of course, he’s given the team 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

So, this all leads back to the original point. If you have trouble figuring out what’s wrong with your Trail Blazers, look no further than that injury report – which features Zach Collins, Hood and Nurkic.

That’s this team’s entire starting front court. And they are most certainly missed more than the players who were traded away.

Get ready for 'The Double Beast’ when Jusuf Nurkic returns

Get ready for 'The Double Beast’ when Jusuf Nurkic returns

Rip City has missed having ‘Nurk Fever’ more than ever this season. 

As Jusuf Nurkic continues to rehab his left leg, this week, fans have been treated to videos of Nurk working out.

Saturday, Nurkic spoke with the media for the first time this season since Blazers Media Day at the end of September.

“I’m right where I want to be... Pain-free,” Nurkic told reporters.

The Blazers 7-footer says he feels that he is about “60 percent.”

After talking with the media in Phoenix following Saturday's practice, it was clear that Nurk is not just focused on getting healthy, but also coming back better than ever.

I’m not expecting myself to just do the rehab; I want to get better, so I want to get better as a player, better as a person. I see a lot of things differently from the court, from the bench, and in the locker room… I’ve been there, like a totally different person to see the different perspective and I feel like I can help even more.  -- Trail Blazer center Jusuf Nurkic

Nurk and the Blazers have not established a timeline for his return. Previous reports of a return around the All-Star Break were not confirmed by the Trail Blazers big.

It’s all about being smart at this point.   

“Trying to listen to my team and doctors, and everybody around me to do the right way… I just need to be smart with my decisions,” Nurkic said.  

As the Bosnian Beast gave updates to reporters, he stopped himself to make sure he took time to thank all the Trail Blazers fans who have been supporting him during his recovery.

“Thanks everybody who did the support of my injury. I mean, with the Billboard and stuff, it mean a lot to me. Knowing the people want to see my practice and stuff."

Nurkic added, “I want to be healthy when I’m done playing basketball.”

But the 25-year-old said he still has a lot of “check marks” to get to before he can get back on the court.

“It’s important for me to be really smart with what I’m doing,” Nurkic said.

For the big fella it’s all about perspective right now:  

Mentally is going to be okay. I’ve been through a lot, like all the people in the world going through some hard times, but I feel like it’s nothing compared to the people on the street, compared to the people who don’t have no money to live.  

As Nurk takes it “day-by-day,” the Blazers are looking at a 10-16 record, and even if he is making sure not to rush his rehab, that doesn’t mean he isn’t extremely eager to get back out there.

I feel hungry… When I’m with the team I feel even more hungry. I lost some weight and I feel great, more explosive, more quick. I just feel like when the day comes, I’m going to be the double beast.

Nurkic has lost about 10 pounds as he works to be 'The Double Beast.' Envisioning a quicker more agile Bosnian Beast will make fans even more eager to see his return. 

Nurkic recognizes that fans are not happy with the Blazers' start of this season. He wants everyone to know that he has to do what is best for everybody involved. 

“I understand people are disappointed, but injuries suck, man, and they’re part of the job, part of the life, and I think for me I need to do whatever is best for me and for the team.”