Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was informed of his grandmother’s passing just before Saturday’s matchup against the Grizzlies. Despite carrying a heavy heart off the court, Nurkic rallied around his teammates to produce a crucial double-double performance, a stat line that helped Portland clinch the final spot in the Western Conference’s postseason picture.
Following Nurkic’s 22-point, 21-rebound outing, Damian Lillard praised the big fella’s focus in the face of adversity in a conversation with The Athletic’s Jason Quick.
“He was amazing,” Lillard said. “A special performance by him dealing with his grandmother passing and to be able to come out here and have that kind of effort, and be that focused on a basketball game when he had something much more important on his mind and on his heart, that just speaks volumes on his character.”
Head Coach Terry Stotts echoed Lillard’s thoughts when recognizing the bravery that Nurkic displayed on Saturday.
“Obviously, it was emotional. I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Stotts said. “It’s been difficult. It’s been hanging over his head for a while … I just think you could tell it was on his mind.”
You can read the full story from Quick at The Athletic.