The Portland Trail Blazers’ meteoric rise to the third spot in the Western Conference comes down to a litany of factors: the domination of Damian Lillard, the resurgence of Portland’s bench, and clutch crunch time performances among them.
Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest looked at the bond between Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic and head coach Terry Stotts as another factor in the Blazers’ strong second half play.
Nurkic gave credit to Stotts for believing in him even while being hard on him.
“I never have a coaching experience like his personality,’’ Nurkic said. “I’ve never had a coach who has trusted me that much … I had a coach before (Denver’s Mike Malone) who never talked to me or play me; now I have a coach who talk to me about every play, and in the film room with me, to work on the stuff I need. He shows me how I can be better. That’s what it is all about.’’
Nurkic is averaging 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Blazers this season, his second after being acquired in a trade with Denver last season. During the Blazers’ current 10-game winning streak, Nurkic is averaging 15.2 points and 11.7 rebounds, including a stellar effort versus the Miami Heat in which he scored 27 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.
“And I give Nurk credit,’’ Stotts said. “He has put in a lot of work with our assistants and in having a serious approach to improving. It always starts with the player.’’
Quick also gauged a change in how the team made Nurkic take shots at practice as a catalyst for his growth. You can read the rest of Quick’s dive into their relationship here.