Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic couldn’t watch Game 5 from his house any longer and he showed up just in time

Jusuf Nurkic couldn’t watch Game 5 from his house any longer and he showed up just in time

The Trail Blazers 2018-19 season has been emotional, to say the least.

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment was when Portland lost Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending leg injury on March 26th.

The Blazers big man was averaging career-highs of 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and one steal to go along with 1.4 blocks.

A career-season ended too quickly.

But Nurkic was determined to not let his team’s season end prematurely too. 

No, it was not do-or-die for the Blazers on Tuesday night as Portland held a 3-1 lead in the series over the Thunder, but for Nurk he was eager for his teammates to take care of business at home.

That’s why the big fella drove himself to Moda Center during the third quarter to show up for his team when they needed him the most.

“It meant a lot. I had seen him earlier today; he was at the practice facility. He was getting a lift in and some rehab. I was like, 'when you gonna come to a game?’  He was like, ‘I’m not ready yet,’ so, when I looked and saw him I was like, man it must’ve looked bad on TV for him to leave his house in the middle of third quarter and drive all the way out here,” CJ McCollum joked postgame.

With 3:28 remaining in the game, Nurkic made an appearance on the Trail Blazers bench.

Damian Lillard had been having a phenomenal game, with a franchise record 32 points in the first half, yet the Blazers trailed 113-105 when the Bosnian Beast showed up.

The jumbotron was quick to show Nurk’s presence on the bench.

Moda Center erupted.

“I was in pain watching the game,” Nurkic joked with Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd on the NBC Sports broadcast after the game. “By the end of the third quarter, I was like f*** it, excuse my French, I’m gonna go out there and show up and I knew if I showed up, we were going to win this game. I had zero doubt.”

Nurkic was right.

“Obviously I love this crowd and this city… I knew if I showed up, I was gonna make a difference,” Nurkic continued.     

But the question on the Blazers’ minds was -- how did Nurk’s stats finish up?

“I would love to see what his plus/minus was tonight,” Lillard said with a smile.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts also wanted to figure out what Nurkic’s plus/minus was for the final three minutes of play.

“We were down eight… So, plus 11… So, his plus/minus was really good. Honestly, you guys know it, you felt it in the building when they showed him on the big screen and the fact that he showed up, no one knew he was going to show up, honestly I think we fed off of that. I think there was a little good karma when he did show up,” Stotts said.

Enes Kanter, who played through a separated shoulder, summed up Nurk being on the bench by simply saying, “he’s our inspiration.”  

Nurkic had said during the regular season after the Blazers were swept by OKC, that he wished he would get to see the Thunder in the playoffs.

Tuesday night he got his wish in person and the Blazers knew they had to win this game for him, and for themselves, to not extend the series.

“When I seen him, I was like we really got to come together and get this done so we don’t have to go back to Oklahoma,” McCollum said.  

“I think they put a camera on him and the crowd went crazy. I heard it. So, he gave us a nice punch,” Lillard said.

The Bosnian Beast brought just enough “punch” to help his team get over the hump.

Lillard brought the knockout with his game winning three-pointer.

The Blazers now advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the 12th time in franchise history and the first time since 2016.

Nurkic, who often refers to Lillard as ‘Babo,’ which means ‘fatherly figure’ in Bosnian, was like a proud son watching his dad rise up on Paul George and knock down the ‘Logo’ three.

Babo had himself a game.

Nurkic saved the day, just in time. 


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Where do the Blazers go with Jusuf Nurkić out for the season?

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Where do the Blazers go with Jusuf Nurkić out for the season?

Okay, now what?

Jusuf Nurkić is out for the season, yet another Portland Trail Blazers big man betrayed by his lower extremities. His left tibia and fibula have been tossed like logs on the fire fueling the narrative that this team has been, and always will be, snakebit.

To that end, Trail Blazers fans experienced the loss of Nurkić in different ways. Few with optimism. Some with fear. Many with despair. All with emotion. But this also felt different, more disparate than the likes of Oden, Bowie, and Walton. 

Whereas those players were ones with a history of injury, of greatness cut down at its peak, or of great potential never realized, Nurkić’s plight comes from the other end of the spectrum. What was this Blazers team expected to do this season? Was the bench supposed to be this good? Were they supposed to be winners of the buyout market? How did Nurkić elevate his game in just five months over the offseason?

Quietly, despite the somber chorus about this team’s roster construction, the city was excited about this squad. Everything was clicking, from the bench, to Nurkić, to Damian Lillard, to Jake Layman. They had headroom to grow, especially if CJ McCollum continued to settle into his new role, and as Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood began to integrate.

Nurkić’s injury isn’t one of disappointment as it relates to the past — forget stolen bicycles, Michael Jordan, and missing menisci — it’s a defeat to the spirit of what lay ahead. In potential, and in postseason vindication.

Time will tell us if Nurkić’s injury gets put into the Portland Trail Blazers Wall O’ Fame. This postseason be damned, the most concerning element of the Bosnian’s untimely fracture is in the timing. The team is searching for a new owner, the coach and general manager are facing pressure following a sweep in the playoffs, and their second-most important player just broke his leg for the second time in three years.

If anything Nurkić’s broken leg mirrors Wesley Matthews’ 2015 Achilles tear more than Bowie, or Oden, or Roy. The team is at the precipice of needing (or requiring) change, and the crest of the pass appeared to be peeking over the horizon. Playoff success wasn’t guaranteed, but Portland was going to put up a fight.

Now it’s not clear whether the Blazers will be able to withstand the dissection teams face from opposing coaches in a seven game playoff series. And if it’s another quick bounce out of the postseason, would anyone be surprised by widespread changes to the front office, coaching staff, or roster? That was already the silent threat that hung over the start of this season.

But the season is not over, and Portland is still here. Rip City is, too, by the way. Terry Stotts and his staff have been more amenable to changes from their usual ways this season, and that flexibility will serve them well in adversity. Meanwhile, fans are organizing in the way they do, with a billboard honoring Nurkić on the way.

How Stotts can finagle his way to playoff success with a ragtag roster like this isn’t obvious, but there’s only a few options available. Kanter, Zach Collins, and Meyers Leonard are what’s left to fill the void left by Nurkić, and a strategy consisting of “play the matchup and substitute often” feels appropriate.

We already got a taste of what might be to come on Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls, with Kanter starting and both Collins and Leonard getting significant run. Chicago wasn’t a worthy challenger, but Stotts stuck with his first substitution platoon plan, adding Leonard to the triad with Seth Curry and Hood.

Meanwhile, it’s unlikely that the Blazers will be able to recover, point-for-point, from Nurkić’s absence. Portland’s defense is 5.35 points per 100 possessions better with Nurkić on the floor this season, and the Bosnian Beast is also a Top 10 player when it comes to defensive field goal percentage for starting centers, according to NBA.com. You can’t expect to scramble and find that production on what’s left of your roster.

But Stotts and the Blazers coaching staff know their strengths, and that’s allowing Lillard to do his thing while trying to limit fouls on defense and contain opponents at the 3-point line. Nurkić has a hand in all three of those things, in one way or another, as the spiderweb of player movement on a basketball floor is wont to make evident. How the replacements fit in won’t be identical.

Kanter, as we saw on Wednesday, seems most likely to fill Nurkić’s starting spot. He’s been a starter before, and on offense he plays on similar areas of the floor. Kanter can’t draw the defense away from the basket the way Nurkić does, but he can pass from the high and mid post, which should allow the Blazers offense to function similarly.

Defense will be more of a challenge, and to that end expect to see these three players chop up minutes the way Mason Plumlee did as a “starter” from 2015-17. That should at least slow opponents’ ability to attack one of them for large swaths of time. It should also help them stay out of foul trouble, of which Collins and Kanter are susceptible to.

So let’s get back to our original question. Now what?

The resounding sentiment, spoken or not, is that this just isn’t fair. And it’s not. And it doesn’t have to be. You’re allowed to be angry, and hurt, and exasperated. 

A cognitive behavioral exercise that’s often used when people feel this way is to imagine themselves as the hub of a bicycle wheel, with all their emotions spinning around them, far out on the rim. The goal of the exercise, they say, is not to live in the emotions on the hub, spinning yourself silly, but to bring yourself back to the center of the wheel. You have to realize that how you feel isn’t who you are, but can be a part of what’s happening around you, however distant.

Blazers fans will need to bring themselves off the rim of the bicycle wheel, down across the dirty spokes, as the centrifugal force of the end of the NBA season spins them around. Finding and living as the hub is not easy. That’s the work, as it were. The pain of this injury, and perhaps the lost playoff potential, will fade. 

Portland is headed to the playoffs, and they’re going to do it without Jusuf Nurkić, and probably without CJ McCollum. The reality is that this team is deeper than it’s been since 2010, maybe longer. It is now facing its greatest on-court challenge since Matthews suffered his Achilles tear in Game 60 of 2015, and you’re going to be there cheering for them every step of the way. 

For now, that’s enough.

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic breaks his silence following season-ending leg injury

NBCS Northwest

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic breaks his silence following season-ending leg injury

The basketball world was shocked when Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic went down with a gruesome leg injury during the second overtime of the Blazers game against the Brooklyn Nets game on Monday. 

Chants of support were heard from Portland to Bosnia, and players around the NBA took to social media to send their love. 

Nurkic, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair fractures to his left tibia and fibula, broke his silence on Friday ahead of the Blazers game against the Atlanta Hawks. In a post on Instagram, the Bosnian Beast thanked Rip City for all of their support. 

There is currently no timetable for Nurkic's return to basketball activity, but he's continued to stay involved with the Blazers throughout his recovery. Prior to Wednesday's game against Chicago, Nurkic FaceTimed his team from the hospital bed, wearing a Rip City shirt and a smile. 

Throughout 72 games this season, Nurkic averaged career highs of 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.00 steal for the Trail Blazers. He shot a career-best 50.8 percent from the field and 77.3 percent from the foul line. Nurkic posted a career-high 36 double-doubles and led the Trail Blazers in rebounds 46 times, assists 12 times and points eight times. 

How will Trail Blazers fill gap left by Jusuf Nurkic?

How will Trail Blazers fill gap left by Jusuf Nurkic?

A lot of the worry has been centered around how the Portland Trail Blazers can reproduce the offensive impact that Jusuf Nurkic brings to the floor. The big Bosnian is out for the season with a broken leg, an especially damaging blow this late in the season. Portland has run a lot of passes through Nurkic at the high post this year, and the Blazers offense will spatially function fundamentally different with him sidelined. 

However, I think the biggest change for the Blazers with Nurkic out will be on defense.

Portland’s defense is 5.35 points per 100 possessions better with Nurkic on the floor this season, per PBP stats. He’s an excellent defender inside of six feet, and is a top 10 when it comes to defensive field goal percentage for starting centers according to NBA.com.

With Nurkic out, coach Terry Stotts will need to do something different. However, his alternatives in Enes Kanter, Zach Collins, and Meyers Leonard aren't the same kind of defensive players. What can Stotts do to cobble together an effective defensive lineup that stays out of foul trouble? I think there's some answers yet to be had here.

Then there's the offensive side of the ball. Wednesday night's game against the Chicago Bulls notwithstanding, Collins has slowly lost his scoring confidence. Meanwhile Leonard has regressed after having his minutes cut in March.

What this means is that replacing Nurkic’s offensive production can probably be most easily replicated by Kanter, who has the ability to operate from similar spots on the floor, and draw some of that same gravity from defenders.

 It won't be easy, but watch the full video breakdown above to see how Portland might be able to amalgamate a big man rotation that can keep opponents on their toes as the Blazers try to battle for playoff victory in the weeks ahead.

With Nurkic "In the locker room" Blazers blow out Bulls

With Nurkic "In the locker room" Blazers blow out Bulls

CHICAGO – The Trail Blazers huddled together in their locker room prior to taking the floor for their 118-98 win over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night.

ALL together.

Jusuf Nurkic was right there with them – from his hospital bed in Portland via FaceTime.

Coach Terry Stotts’ wife, Jan, came up with the idea of getting the injured center hooked up with his teammates before it took the floor and it made a big hit with the team.

“That was awesome,” Zach Collins said. “It was so cool. Kind of a surprise for us. He was able to hear us, he was wearing a Rip City shirt. He kind of got in the huddle with us, too. It was special.

“It was cool to see him in good spirits after what happened. It was not even two days ago. To see him in good spirits was cool.

“He was pretty heavily medicated but we got a smile out of him and a laugh, so it was good.”

Damian Lillard was pleased with the way it turned out.

“He didn’t really say much,” Lillard said. “You could tell he was kind of out of it. He pointed at the pinwheel on his shirt, Rip City. Laughed a little bit. We all brought it in before we went on the court.

“I didn’t even know we were going to do it. He just showed up on the TV screen.”

Enes Kanter, who started at center in Nurkic’s spot, drew inspiration from the moment.

“Just to see his face and just to hear his voice before the game gave us so much positive motivation,” Kanter said. “That gave us so much positive energy. We actually brought him in the huddle together and said, ‘1-2-3, Nurk!’ It was so much positive energy.

“We couldn’t really hear his voice but we saw his face. He was in bed laying down. It meant a lot to us.”

The Bulls – with four legitimate starters on the inactive list, weren’t in any position to offer much resistance. The Trail Blazers jumped out to a 27-14 lead after one quarter and sailed through the rest of the game with every player in uniform scoring at least two points.

Damian Lillard spent most of the game making sure his teammates were getting the ball in the right spot to score and wasn’t his usual aggressive self on offense – which is probably a good thing this late in the season and on the first of a four-game road trip.

Kanter made six of his eight shots, had 13 points and six rebounds in a little under 22 minutes. Collins got 25 minutes, some of which was at center, had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Skal Labissiere played the final 3:56 and made his only shot and Meyers Leonard, who had previously played only 10 total minutes in March and none since March 9, went 18 minutes and had four points and four rebounds.

“Look, as I said before the game, the next two weeks we’re going to look at different combinations,” Coach Terry Stotts said.

And that he did. All four of the team’s remaining centers got some run and the bench, including the reliable scoring of Seth Curry (a team-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting), played well.

Portland now moves on to Atlanta and a Friday night date with the Hawks.

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic should heal very well' from leg injury

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic should heal very well' from leg injury

After suffering a gruesome leg injury against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, it's official: Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is out for the season (and likely a little more, too). 

Nurkic underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to repair his left tibia and fibula, and is expected to make a full recovery. While a timetable for his return is uncertain, the Trail Blazers starting center will likely heal very well, according to Dr. Rahul N. Desai of Restore PDX. 

Dr. Desai, a specialist of musculoskeletal radiology and interventional joint and spine medicine, joined host Justin Myers on this week's The Bridge to share his insight on Nurkic's season-ending injury.

In the clip above, he takes a look at how Nurkic's injury compares to that of Paul George and what his recovery will look like as he begins his return to the court. 

From Portland to Bosnia: Fans show support for Jusuf Nurkic

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From Portland to Bosnia: Fans show support for Jusuf Nurkic

When Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a season-ending leg injury and had to be carted off the court in Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, chants rang out throughout the Moda Center in Portland. 

“Jusuf Nurkic, Jusuf Nurkic, Jusuf Nurkic,” Trail Blazers fans shouted in support.

Those chants were heard once again on Tuesday night. This time, some 6,000 miles away in Nurkic’s home country of Bosnia.

In a video shared on Twitter by user @sohuu91, Jusuf Nurkic chants echoed throughout a soccer stadium as Bosnia and Herzegovina took on Greece in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying game.

Take a listen:

Nurkic sustained a fractured left tibia and fibula at the 2:22 mark of the second overtime of the Trail Blazers win over the Nets on Monday. The Bosnian Beast underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to repair his left leg injury, and is expected to make a full recovery. There is currently no timetable for his return. 

The Trail Blazers will have to play the remaining nine games of the regular season and the playoffs without their starting center. Next up, the Blazers take on the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

This story is painful for longtime Trail Blazer fans but it must be told. Can we call it the Case of the Cursed Centers?

It all started with Bill Walton. The All-America center out of UCLA was the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA draft. The franchise knew when it picked him that he’d been plagued by foot and leg problems but he was an elite player – an all-time great at the college level who was a can’t-miss pro.

Walton played in only a combined 86 games for Portland his first two seasons but the third season was a beauty. He was healthy for 65 games and through the playoffs, when he led his team to its one and only NBA championship and was the Finals MVP.

The following season he was the league’s Most Valuable Player but exited after 58 games with foot problems and never played another game for Portland.

Then came Sam Bowie, the second pick of the 1984 draft. He played 76 games as a rookie but only a combined 63 over the next four seasons, as leg injuries sidelined him and eventually led to a trade that brought Buck Williams from New Jersey. And oh yes, the Blazers took Bowie over Michael Jordan, as you remember.

In 2007, Portland again had the first pick in the draft and selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Oden played a total of 82 games over five seasons with the Blazers.

And now, of course, there is Jusuf Nurkic. In late March of 2017, he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula and missed the final seven games of the regular season. He attempted a comeback in the playoffs but could handle only 17 minutes of one game.

Monday it got muck worse for Nukic, as everyone knows. He suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula and underwent surgery Tuesday.

Nurkic was moving toward becoming one of the top centers in the league and his net rating (10.4) is said to be the best by a Portland player since the stat was created in 2000.

What is it about the Trail Blazers' centers and their lower bodies? If you were a center and drafted by or traded to Portland, would you decline the opportunity and head to Europe? Invest big money in a company that manufactures crutches?

I’m not much of a believer in jinxes but is it fair to say the franchise is cursed? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Center is a basketball position that puts a lot of very large men in a small confined space near the basket where they often collide with each other. And often these men don’t seem to have lower limbs sturdy enough to handle the stress on their big bodies.

I’ve always thought these sorts of things even out over time. But as far as the Trail Blazers are concerned, that time can’t come soon enough.

This just hasn’t been fair.

Don't write off the Jusuf Nurkic-less Trail Blazers yet

Don't write off the Jusuf Nurkic-less Trail Blazers yet

Trail Blazers insider Dwight Jaynes joined Brian Noe of the Noe Show to share his intial reation to Jusuf Nurkic's season-ending injury on Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Nurkic, the Trail Blazers starting center, sustained compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula and underwent successful surgery to repair the leg on Tuesday. 

Jaynes said that despite the devastating loss of Nurkic, he believes the Blazers are still in position to win a playoff series. 

Take a listen to the clip above.


OFFICIAL: Jusuf Nurkic suffers season-ending leg injury

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OFFICIAL: Jusuf Nurkic suffers season-ending leg injury

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic sustained compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula with 2:22 remaining in the second overtime of Portland’s win over Brooklyn on Monday

There is no timetable for his return to basketball activity. His status will be updated as appropriate.

In 72 games this season (all starts), Nurkic averaged career highs of 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.00 steal to go with 1.40 blocks. He shot a career-best 50.8% from the field and 77.3% from the foul line. Nurkic posted a career-high 36 double-doubles and led the Trail Blazers in rebounds 46 times, assists 12 times and points eight times. He ranks 15th in the NBA in rebounding and 16th in blocks.