After watching their teammate Jusuf Nurkic suffer a serious leg injury Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers tried to cope with the situation. In a locker room that NBC Sports’ Peter Socotch called “dead silent”, the Blazers tried to work through their feelings and talk to the press.
First, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts faced the media in the traditional postgame press conference. A visibly-distraught Stotts told the media that the Nurkic injury was “devastating”, and that he been taken to a local hospital, but did not know his status beyond that.
Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard said, “It made me sick to my stomach”. He admitted to thinking back to Paul George’s injury. George suffered a compound fracture during a 2014 Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas. Lillard reflected, “I was playing at the game in Vegas when a similar thing happened to Paul George. That’s exactly what it looked like to me when I saw it. You never want to see that happen to anybody, let alone your friend and teammate.”
Lillard also discussed his friendship with Nurkic, which has blossomed over the two seasons since Nurkic was acquired at the 2017 trade deadline. He reminisced about recent events, saying, “That’s my little big brother... The other day after practice, Nurk just came after practice to see my son, no reason at all. You at home he wanna come by and see the baby. I think that says what our relationship is, came to a one-year old’s birthday party.”
Backup big man Zach Collins didn’t mince words, stating, “It’s terrible. Obviously, you never want to see that happen, especially with your own teammate that you go to war with every night. Nurk has been having a hell of a season, he had an amazing game tonight.”
“For it to end like that for him, it’s just... it’s tough.”
The positive thoughts crossed locker rooms. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson noted that Nurkic was on the mind of his players. He remarked, “That’s what our guys are talking about in the locker room. Not the game or the loss. They’re talking about a player who was having a great game and a heckuva player so you just pray it’s not a long term thing and he can bounce back.”
The Nets’ Jared Dudley agreed, telling the YES Network that Nurkic’s injury is “bigger than basketball”, and how it affected not only Portland, which he called a “basketball town”, but also his own team, who took a few plays to regroup and refocus.
The Blazers will also need to regroup over the next two days. Tomorrow they board a plane for Chicago, their first stop of a four-game road trip, with neither Nurkic nor the injured CJ McCollum.