It’s been a long time since Jusuf Nurkic had been on the court at Moda Center. March 25, 2019 to be exact.
And that night he was really on the floor. Flat on the floor, after suffering a compound fracture the tibia and fibula in his left leg.
But he returned Sunday night for just 12:32, getting four points, four rebounds and two blocked shots during the Trail Blazers’ forgettable 121-106 toss to Sacramento. And he was also sent to the floor by an errant elbow from a Kings player in nearly the same spot as his last game in the arena, under the south-end basket.
But he was fine and looked pretty good for a player who has yet to have a practice with his team during training camp.
“Nurk looked a little rusty,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “But he hadn't had any practices. So things that we did for the first three days, he hasn't gone through. So I think we’ve got to get him some reps in the next couple days to kind of get him on the same page with everybody else.”
Nurkic came away feeling fine physically (“I think I’m solid”) but his return to the Moda Center was, admittedly, weird.
“I think mainly it was really challenging for me, just from the community aspect, just going to the Moda,” he said “Like, I know I'm gonna play the game. You know it's over, but I was just thinking differently.
“I told CJ during the game it was weird for me, like just to be on the floor. It’s such a long period of time.
“I feel like this season is going to be much different with this (arena) such a big space. For me, personally, I feel like this time was more emotional than the bubble.”
Nurkic showed up in Portland with curly hair tinted just a bit red. If the light catches it just right, you can see just a bit of Bill Walton in that.
“I didn't think about it that way,” he said. “My grandma was having the same color. So, it was kind of just the pandemic makes people crazy. So I was just bored.”
But there probably would be nothing wrong with another talented, red-haired Trail Blazer center.