What started as a nightmare season in Denver for center Jusuf Nurkic became a fairytale when he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in February. Regular DNPs and lineup question marks turned into regular minutes and victorious exclamation points. Cheers rained down from the rafters for Portland’s new golden boy, as he helped his team to an immediate 14-6 run, rekindling their playoff hopes. But fairytales aren’t captivating without twists, turns, and dramatic tension. The Trail Blazers faithful plummeted from euphoric heights as Nurkic suffered a fractured fibula, now sitting on the edge of their seats as uncertainty creeps into the post-season ‘happily ever after.’
The injury news has been frustrating for everyone, but for none more-so than Nurkic himself. Thankfully, the injury is not serious and a full recovery could still line up with playoff competition should the Trail Blazers secure their spot without him. He remains in good spirits. His teammates are optimistic as well, confident that he can handle the injury and that they can handle their business on the court while he recovers from it, per Trail Blazers digital reporter Casey Holdahl:
“He’s a tough dude,” said Damian Lillard. “He was telling me his leg was hurting, but … I’m sitting there telling him, ‘Nah, I don’t want to hear it.’ And this dude’s leg is really broke.”
“It’s disappointing to lose such a huge piece, but just because we lose a guy doesn’t mean it’s going to stop,” said Lillard. “You’ve got to keep going. And we feel like we’ve got guys that can step in. Obviously, it won’t be one guy that can step in and be Nurk. But collectively, I think we have guys that can come in and make up for it. Maybe not completely, but enough to where we can keep it going.”
“It’s unfortunate, it’s tough,” said CJ McCollum. “(Nurkić) is playing so well and after going through what he went through to get over here — from not playing to being in the rotation to playing really well — and to go down is tough. It’s tough to see him have to go through that but he’ll be back. We’ll have to weather the storm without him.”
The Trail Blazers dispatched the Phoenix Suns 130-117 in their first matchup without Nurkic, and face the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in hopes of adding a seventh win to their streak that began when Nurkic was healthy. To read Nurkic’s take on the injury and what head coach Terry Stotts had to say, read Holdahl’s full article, here.