Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic has not been playing up to his usual standard so far this season. He broke out a bit tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting. After the game, he also told The Athletic’s Jason Quick that off-season concerns kept him from entering the year in his usual physical and mental state.
Quick tweeted the explanation from Nurkic:
Another reminder that players are people first: Jusuf Nurkic says he is still dealing with the remnants of a family issue in Bosnia that led to his reporting to Portland right before camp started. He didn't want to get into specifics, but clear the issue still on his mind.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) January 8, 2021
Nurkic noted how much it weighed on his mind when he stayed with Blazers in bubble after his grandmother passed in Bosnia, so this offseason he stayed in Bosnia to take care of family issue, which played role in his being at what he estimates is 70 percent conditioning. https://t.co/v3ZyaPBvAf— Jason Quick (@jwquick) January 8, 2021
Nurkic has averaged 9.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on 45.3% shooting so far this season. Those numbers are far off of his 15.6 point, 10.4 rebound, 50.8% shooting rates from the 2018-19 season, the last time he played consistently. His per-minute production is down, as are minutes played and shots attempted.
Nurkic broke his leg in March of 2019 and has played a total of 15 regular-season games since. When he was injured, he was considered a solid part of Portland’s Big Three and one of the bright, young centers in the league.
Casey Holdahl of the Trail Blazers adds this quote: