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Nurkic’s Revival the Result of a Mindset Shift

Jason Quick of The Athletic chronicles what led to the big man’s torrid run over the last few weeks.

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Jusuf Nurkic is currently enjoying the most successful run of his still-young NBA career, and the Portland Trail Blazers are reaping the benefits—surging to third place in the Western Conference. According to a recent article from Jason Quick of The Athletic, a shift in Nurkic’s mindset keyed the hot stretch, bringing Nurkic Fever back to Rip City.

The change was the result of a back-to-basics approach, as reported by Quick:

“I don’t know how to put it, but it’s the decisions I’m making right now,” Nurkic said of the change. “Before, I was trying to figure out too much. Now, I just have fun and enjoy what I’m doing. To be in position to just relax and play, it means to me a lot. Before, I want to do a lot of stuff, but it can’t happen (at once).”

Accepting who he is, has in effect, simplified his game.

Quick points out that the Bosnian Beast has doubled his scoring average over the last nine games compared to the eight preceding them, from 10.4 per night to 20.2. In the process, he also nearly doubled his field goal percentage, from 37% to 62%.

Nurkic also touched on his time with the Denver Nuggets, which ultimately ended with his trade to the Blazers in February 2017:

“There was a lot of stuff going on over there. It was a mess, not just with me,” Nurkic said. “And I didn’t want to be in a position like that. Obviously, people are going to make stories and try to make me look bad, and stuff like that, but time has shown who I am as a player and person.”

There were stories of Nurkic being lazy, pouty and clashing with head coach Mike Malone.

He says some of that is true.

“I’m an emotional guy; I can’t change who I am and how I react to stuff,” Nurkic said.

The 24-year old, who is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a game on the season, will be facing his former chums on the road in Denver for just the third time since his arrival in Portland when the Blazers go to battle with the Nuggets on Sunday night.