Trail Blazers

Jusuf Nurkic's playing time and load management for this season is still being discussed

Trail Blazers

Preseason play exists to shake off the rust and gauge one’s conditioning while prepping for the real deal. 

This shortened training camp has meant an acceleration on all preparation fronts.

Where does Jusuf Nurkic feel his conditioning is at with two more practices to go before the Blazers tip-off the 2020-21 regular season?

Following Monday's practice, Nurkic said he’s at “about 70 percent.”

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The shortened training camp and no pick-up games during the offseason meant Nurkic still doesn’t feel like he’s ready to go quite yet.

But that shouldn't alarm anyone. He still has two more practices to get there and he's feeling good about that. 

“I just feel like the game shape is different for everybody. There’s no one out here be at 100 percent [right now]… I’m a little bit away from game shape… That’s why camp exists.”

 

Nurkic continued to explain adding, “Because of the pandemic you can’t really do the contact in the offseason.”

But despite not playing well and not feeling ready to play in an NBA game yet during Portland’s tune-ups, Nurkic is confident he’ll be good to go once the Jazz come to town two days from now.

It’s nothing too concerning [to] me, I’ll be ready for Wednesday.

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic

Figuring out the big fellas minutes even before he broke his leg in March of 2019, has been a challenge.

From the 2017-18 season to the 2018-19 season Nurkic averaged 26.9 minutes per game for the Blazers.

During the NBA restart, his average minutes jumped to 31.6 minutes as he made his return to the court after being away for over a year following his gruesome leg injury.

But there were plenty of factors that led to his big increase in playing time with Hassan Whiteside and then eventually Zach Collins dealing with injuries.

Plus, the NBA restart in the Orlando Bubble meant no travel, which ultimately meant quickier recovery time.

I like my bubble minutes, but I don’t know if it’s realistic for me to play 30-some minutes in a game and asking for me to do all the things I’m trying to do. 

Jusuf Nurkic

But don't expect 30 minutes a night from Nurkic this season. 

With Portland playing nearly every other night or in a back-to-back through early March, Nurk knows managing his minutes will be important. He mentioned “it’s definitely something to think about” as far as load management for him this year.

But we shouldn’t expect him to sit out of either legs of a back-to-backs this year.

The nice thing is – the Blazers have the frontcourt depth to make that possible should Nurkic need to take a night off, especially when Zach Collins is cleared to play next month after rehabbing his left ankle.

“I’m definitely going to play some back-to-backs,” Nurkic said Monday. “But I don’t know if I need to play 14 back-to-backs or how many we have... What is the best for my body and for the team going forward? -- That’s the only question me and team are going to go over.”

 

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts explained how Nurkic won’t be limited to a certain number of minutes, but that there are plenty of factors when it’s come to how much time he will see this year.

“Fatigue plays a part of it, how the game is going, foul trouble – things like that, but there are no limitations on his minutes,” Stotts said.

Overall, it’s about how the Bosnian Beast is feeling at the end of the day.

“What is good for me as far as I have injury two years ago, almost two years ago and we’ve got to figure out as the medical staff… and my part… to figure out what is the best for me as far as back-to-backs and stuff like that. We are still talking about it.”