The Portland Trail Blazers offered Jusuf Nurkic a four year/$48 million extension last offseason in the hopes that he would emerge as a clear third option behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report talks to Nurkic about his time in Portland and how Damian Lillard has gone out of his way to make him feel welcome:
Lillard had offered Nurkic some breathing room for a couple of days following the trade. Now, though, he needed his new teammate’s focused play. So Lillard let Nurkic know the clouds would eventually part and the ball would start falling. He went out of his way to get him the ball that game.
”It means the world to me, man,” Nurkic says. “I’m from Bosnia, a small country, three, almost four million [people]. To me, it’s like a dream to have a superstar, and he kinda takes you under his ... wing for whatever you need. “
Lillard remembers telling Nurkic the organization accepted him and wanted to help him advance as a player. “Once that happened, he just opened up,” Lillard says in a conversation a few days before Thanksgiving. “I felt like he needs somebody to be in his corner because it seemed like they didn’t support him there, so I just decided I was going to be in his corner and he opened up to me and we hit it off from there.”
Abrams also spoke with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey about how he approached Lillard with the responsibility of being the leader of the team:
Olshey asked Lillard to talk.
”We’re going to hit the reset button,” Olshey told his remaining star. “We’re going to bring in young guys. We’re going to have to Moneyball it a little bit by finding guys that have been a little bit overlooked or forgotten by other organizations, so they’re not going to be flashy signings. We’re going to have to take some fliers. We’re going to have to build a culture and we’re going to have to be patient.”
Olshey told Lillard he planned to build around him for the long haul. He asked if Lillard would be ready or even want the responsibility.
Click through to read the entire article. It’s chock full of Nurkic’s background in Europe and Denver, as well as his time in Portland.