The Portland Trail Blazers were hoping to welcome back Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum following All-Star Break, but it appears the two players aren’t quite ready to return just yet.
As the Second Half of the season begins at home against Phoenix (24-11), the Trail Blazers (21-14) have announced McCollum (left midfoot fracture) and Nurkic (right wrist fracture) have been ruled out for Thursday’s game.
McCollum was cleared for contact practice last week, but the Trail Blazers have not yet provided a timeline for his return. As for Nurkic, President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the seven-footer “continues to progress in his recovery.” He was expected to be re-evaluated late last week.
When asked about his injury on a recent appearance of ESPN’s “The Jump,” the Bosnian Beast said his wrist was doing great, and if he didn’t return directly after All-Star break, it would likely be within “a week or two.”
Without Nurk and CJ in the lineup, the Trail Blazers went 13-9 and cruised to a three-game winning streak before All-Star break. Portland remains in the thick of the West playoff race sitting in fifth place, just three games behind the second-place Suns, who they will play Thursday.
Damian Lillard is personally looking forward to having his two starters back in the rotation, but he also knows Portland can’t take their foot off the gas.
“I think we had a really solid first half of the season and now we just have to make sure that even when we get closer to full strength, we don’t welcome them back and think that it’s going to be easy all of the sudden,” Lillard said following Portland's final game of the First Half. “We’ve got to continue to be focused like we have been, trust each other and continue to add the same energy and focus that we’ve had. And I think if we continue to do that, we’ll be an even better team in the second half.”
Also sidelined for Thursday’s game vs. Phoenix is center Harry Giles (left calf strain) and F/C Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) who remain out.
The Suns and Trail Blazers will meet for the second time this season after Phoenix dominated Portland 132-100 in the Valley of the Sun on Feb. 22. The two teams will open up the Second Half of the season on Thursday at Moda Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.