Storyline: Jusuf Nurkic Injury

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Wednesday, March 25th 2020 marks the second straight week of no NBA basketball, which has seems like much longer than two weeks. It is also the one-year mark since 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 last season. Over the past year, the road to recovery has been trying. But, Nurkic has been strong and steadfast in his rehab despite the physical and emotional toll it has taken on him. The Trail Blazers big man shared his thoughts on his Instagram Wednesday while remembering the trials and tribulations of this past year.

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Along with nine photos and one video of the Bosnian Beast working out, Nurk wrote: “I’m so emotional but can’t believe it’s been a year since my injury. It doesn’t matter how deep you fall what really matters is how high you bounce back. In my life I learn to overcome difficulties but everyone has a fate and own destiny. Faith is trusting God even when you don’t understand His plan. Once again I want to thank everyone. A year ago you guys did something special for me, it meant the world to me after all I’m 100% healthy and can’t wait to play basketball again. Until then, stay safe and healthy…. Love Nurk — Trail Blazers center.”

The Bosnian Beast will most likely be on a minutes restriction, at least for the first handful of games as he works his way back into game shape. Thus, Whiteside will probably play starter’s minutes even if he isn’t out on the floor when the ball is tipped. But, could the Blazers go with the Twin Towers and play both centers together? Whiteside thinks so. I think it’ll be good. Melo posts up 80% of the time, so it’s not going to be a spacing issue or anything. I think we’ll be a force out there. Even when we’re in a game, I think we can play minutes together and then we can rotate in and out. — Trail Blazers big man Hassan Whiteside on playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic

“I worked my ass off to be in position to get back on the court and help my team, but game speed is going to be different,” Nurkic told Yahoo Sports. “I’m not going to be playing 40 minutes. But for me, mentally, I need to get these reps in before I can play [extended minutes]. Physically, I’m good. I had a calf strain recently, which is normal for the injury I had. I’ve been pleased with where my rehab is going. I never doubted I’d be back, but I had to make sure I was 100 percent. I can’t wait for [March 15].”

It will be the first time Nurkic will get to play with Hassan Whiteside, the center Portland traded for in the offseason as a placeholder and who is currently leading the league in blocks at 3.1 per game. “He’s my teammate,” Nurkic told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t know the plans going forward, but my mind is on how I’m going to help this team make the playoffs. We just need to sacrifice our games for the team’s good, do the little things that don’t show on the stat sheet and put our games together for possibly the playoffs. We have a chance, and when you have a chance, you’ve got to go get it.”

Jusuf Nurkic out until after All-Star break

According to a source familiar with the situation, who spoke to the USA TODAY Sports Media Group on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, Nurkic will be out until after the All-Star break. Nurkic suffered a gruesome broken leg injury in which he fractured his fibula and tibia, on March 25, 2019, and the Blazers are currently in the midst of a difficult season at 19-26, two games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference.

Nurkic said he has lost more than 10 pounds but added muscle as he’s ramped up his rehab. And as he continues to improve, he isn’t merely focusing on his health, but rather, on becoming a better and more skilled player. “I’m not expecting myself to just do the rehab,” he said. “I want to get better. I want to get better as a player. I want to get better as a person. I see a lot of things differently (away) from the court, from the bench, and the locker room.”

Nurkic, 25, says he is not rehabilitating simply to get healthy. He is working to come back a more skilled player. “I don’t want to just do the rehab. I want to get better,” Nurkic said. “Better as a player, better as a person.” He says he has lost about 10 pounds and hasn’t felt any pain since he has ramped up his workouts. “I try to build day by day,” Nurkic said. “I try to listen to the team and doctors and everybody around me to do it the right way. It’s difficult right now watching, but I just need to be smart. I feel pretty good where I am.”

The franchise has refused to put a timetable on his return to active duty and Nurkic dodged all those questions, as did his coach. But it was made clear that he has been doing more work on the court than previously thought. “He’s been doing a lot of stuff,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “This is the first time you’ve gotten to see it. He’s been doing things similar to this. Today wasn’t anything new from our standpoint. You just haven’t seen it. I think we’re all encouraged by the progress he’s made.”

Olshey said Nurkic is “making great progress” from his broken left leg, suffered March 25 in a game against Brooklyn, however he was reluctant to place any timetable on the center’s return next season. “So far, he’s on a great trajectory in terms of returning to play … but we are not going to sacrifice anything in his recovery and (physical therapy) just to get him on the court faster,” Olshey said. If I were to guess, the target date for Nurkic to return would be late January, early February, meaning the Blazers will have to play more than half of the season without their standout center.

The Trail Blazers staved off elimination Thursday night at the Moda Center. But when they board the team plane to head to Denver on Saturday afternoon ahead of Game 7, the guy who wants to be there the most likely won’t be on the flight. “It’s ridiculous,” Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic said almost scoffing at the challenge of watching his team play the biggest games of the season while he is forced to watch from the sidelines. “But I gotta take it. For me, it’s harder when you’re out there (on the bench) and not out there (in the game). When you’re watching and you actually just can only watch as a fan, it makes even harder.”

Jusuf Nurkic: THANK YOU to everyone who has reached out to me and sent their well wishes and prayers to me after my injury. I greatly appreciate the support. I want to send a special thanks to my teammates, the Trail Blazer organization, the RIP City fans, my coaches, the team trainers and doctors who have helped me these last few days. I will work hard during my recovery and am looking forward to getting back healthy and on the court and rejoining my teammates. I will be rooting them on during the playoffs. Thanks again to #RIPCity for all the love and support.

Paul George said he was the only Thunder player who didn’t have to look away when Portland center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a gruesome leg injury Monday. The team was on the plane from Memphis to OKC that night, when Nurkic suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula. The broadcast showed his lower leg hanging at an unnatural angle. George sustained a similar injury in 2014. “I wish the best for Nurkic,” George said Wednesday after practice. “Through this time it’s hard, it’s tough, but as I’ve been through it, his best days are ahead of them.”

The Thunder and Nurkic have history. In the most recent chapter of the saga, Russell Westbrook body-checked Nurkic after he thought the Portland big man tried to trip him. Later in the game, George and Nurkic got in an altercation when Nukic thought George hit him in the face. “Me and Nurkic and this program and Nurkic, a couple of us aren’t the fondest of Nurkic,” George said, “but in this moment I send my best. I don’t wish that on anybody, and I think everybody should rally behind him. As a brotherhood and as a fraternity being in the NBA, all of that stuff goes out the window when you see somebody go down.”

With 2:22 left in the second overtime period, Nurkic missed on a putback attempt and landed awkwardly, leading to his left leg bending in terrible fashion. A foul was called on the play, and after a moment players from both teams began signaling for trainers. Some sprinted away after realizing the severity of the injury. The injury was so jarring, the first people to reach Nurkic draped a towel over his leg to cover it from view. His leg was put in an air cast, and Nurkic was stretchered to the locker room. There was no immediate word on the details of the injury, but Nurkic will assuredly miss the remainder of the season. Blazers coach Terry Stotts called the injury “devastating.”
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April 2, 2020 | 9:36 pm EDT Update
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April 2, 2020 | 8:15 pm EDT Update
P.J. Tucker will release a new limited-edition collection of clothing items next week to help promote awareness of coronavirus safety measures and raise funds for the Houston Food Bank and local businesses and vendors. Tucker announced that he and The Better Generation will make items available for a preorder through the weekend or while supplies last. The items will include long and short sleeve shirts, shorts and a baseball cap and feature COVID-19 awareness graphics.
“We all came together and said we wanted to do something positive,” Tucker said. “With so much negativity and so much stuff going on right now in the world, we wanted to do something to give back and help out. We’re doing three different shirts, three different shorts and a hat. There is a social distancing logo and messaging on the back with the logo for the store.”
April 2, 2020 | 5:36 pm EDT Update
Porter, who spent one season at Missouri, said he’s got a private gym that he can access whenever he wants. “I’ve literally been in the gym just as much as I was in Denver, which has been really good,” Porter said on Altitude’s digital show. “I feel like I haven’t really lost a lot. And it’s been good for my ankle, too, because you know my ankle was still kind of sore.”
In his downtime, he said he’s been preparing for the NBA 2K tournament that will air Friday night on ESPN. Porter, a No. 12 seed, drew No. 5 seed Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. Booker’s a notorious gamer, but Porter liked his chances. “I’m just naturally good at 2K,” he said. “It’s kind of weird. 2K, if you’re good at actual basketball, like it translates.”
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April 2, 2020 | 5:11 pm EDT Update
Although it launched last October, the Utah Jazz is using their Utah Jazz Podcast Network as an outlet for players to broaden their off-the-court reach and skills. “Our players have obviously been focused on keeping themselves healthy and making sure that their family and those close to them are healthy,” Bart Sharp, the Jazz’s senior vice president of marketing, said. “But they’ve also expressed a desire to try and provide some sense of normalcy and entertainment to our fan base during this time and wanted to find ways in which they can help people during this unique period.”
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April 2, 2020 | 4:36 pm EDT Update
Doc Rivers wasn’t immediately impressed with Williams when the Clippers acquired him from the Houston Rockets. On Thursday’s episode of The Bob Ryan and Jeff Goodman Podcast, Rivers spoke about his first impressions of Williams. “When we traded for Lou, I was not having Lou,” Rivers said. “I saw a guy that kept getting traded. And I appreciated his offense, but not nearly, never thought it was this good… When he finally showed up three days before training camp, I was not having him. I was like, ‘We’re not gonna work’, you know?”
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April 2, 2020 | 4:30 pm EDT Update

Knicks front office staying put

For now, Leon Rose is proceeding as status quo with an inherited front office in following an unofficial NBA hiring/firing stoppage with the world stopped cold. According to sources, Rose is actively holding scouting meetings with his staff via conference call/video regarding the draft. “I don’t see any teams hiring or firing during this,” one NBA source said. “That’s the sense.”
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April 2, 2020 | 4:21 pm EDT Update
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