ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is known for saying how he feels in a yelling manner with no regard for the subject he’s commenting on.
Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic became Smith’s latest victim due to his offensive production.
“That damn Jusuf Nurkic, he gets on my damn nerves,” Smith said. “I can’t hold it in anymore. He gets on my damn nerves. Jusuf Nurkic can play. This brotha is not a scrub. He can play. He can really, really play offensively.”
Through two games against the Nuggets, Nurkic is averaging 11.5 points on 50% shooting and nine field-goal attempts.
Although Smith says he’s been holding in his disappointment for Nurkic, his postseason production is consistent with what he did in the regular-season, in which he averaged 11.5 points on 51.4% shooting on nine shots a night.
Smith is a big believer in Portland’s big-man, thinking his point total could be amongst the NBA’s elite.
“He can drop 30 anytime he wants to. He’ll drop 25-30 a night and disappear for three games. He makes me sick. He really does, because he’s so talented. It’s wasted talent half the time with him. For no reason, he just doesn’t show up… talent-wise, he’s one of the best big men in the game. We just don’t see it half the time because he wants to take time off.”
In 37 regular-season games this past season, Nurkic had four games over 20 points, which included a season-high of 26.
He is suffering from a 6.1 point decrease and a loss of 4.6 shots from a season ago, which is playing a role in his production.
When it comes to Jurkic vs. Nikola Jokic, offensively it's been all Jokic. He’s averaging 36 points and 12 rebounds on 61.7% shooting.
Smith continued on Nurkic. “You’re 6-11, 280, 290. I understand the joker can play, but what the hell about you Nurkic? He really gets on my damn nerves. He’s too talented to play so weak sometimes.”
Nurkic has been the primary defender on Jokic, and through two games, Jokic has scored a total of 29 points 52.2% shooting against his former teammate.
Kendrick Perkins thinks Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is to blame for Nurkic’s troubles, citing the way he’s used within the team's offense.
“When you look at Nurkic, it goes hand-and-hand,” Perkins said. “You have to watch the position he [Terry Stotts] puts him in. He got him playing around the three-point line doing dribble hand-offs and popping and stretching the floor. Instead of establishing his seven-foot, 285-pound behind in the paint. That goes on Terry Stotts.
Stotts has received his fair share of criticism this season, but there are only so many shots to go around. Nurkic was fifth on the team in shots during the regular-season and is currently fourth in the playoffs.
Thus far in the series, Nurkic has averages of 0.5 post-ups per game, three possessions as the pick-and-roll man, and is third on the team in touches at 52.5.
Will Nurkic turn it on and be a difference maker in Game 3?