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Nurkic’s Passing Credo Fuels Blazers’ Return Excitement

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Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic discussed his pass-friendly mentality and earned praise from Damian Lillard.

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers will receive a much-needed boost at the heart of their lineup in the form of center Jusuf Nurkic when play resumes in Orlando later this month. Following a weekend of successful practices with his teammates, the Bosnian big man discussed how his willingness to get others involved drives his approach to the game.

Citing a lesson he learned as a developing player, Nurkic explained to The Athletic’s Jason Quick that passing has always been a crucial ingredient to his playing style.

“They say an assist makes two people happy,” Nurkic said. “So, that’s how I grow up.”

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“In Bosnia, or the Balkan region out there, I feel like we’ve been taught more to play team sports,” Nurkic said.

Prior to suffering a gruesome leg injury near the end of the 2018-19 season, Nurkic was averaging a career-best 3.2 assists per game. Hassan Whiteside, who has filled in as Portland’s pivot this season, produced 1.2 assists per game in 61 outings.

Nurkic’s return, and what it means for the Blazers’ offense, is not lost on star point guard Damian Lillard. Trail Blazers digital reporter Casey Holdahl highlighted Lillard’s thoughts regarding the return of both Nurkic and Zach Collins over the weekend.

“They looked great,” said Damian Lillard of Nurkić and Collins. “Both guys played really physical, played well in the paint. They didn’t seem concerned with anything, they looked really comfortable. I’m excited about the style we’re going to be able to play on both ends of the floor with those guys, being up higher in pick-and-rolls, putting more pressure on the ball, our rebounding is going to be much better than it has been all season long, us being able to play through the bigs because they can both pass the ball really well.

The Trail Blazers play in three scrimmage against other teams before starting their eight-game restart schedule against the Grizzlies on July 31.