Portland Trail Blazers’ big man Jusuf Nurkic is dealing with something bigger than the game of basketball, reports Jason Quick of the Athletic. The Bosnian Beast has struggled to find his footing in recent games, and now there is a reason why: an unnamed family issue. While Nurkic stated the situation is improving, it is clear it still weighs on him.
“Basketball is a priority for me right now, but we are all human beings, we are all dealing with everything going on … outside our bubble, outside in the world, families and everything,” Nurkic said.
Though he tries to focus on basketball, the death of his grandmother Hana has made the distance harder to handle.
“It’s always going to be there,” Nurkic said. “Things like that, you are always going to be looking at your phone, and halftime looking at calls and texts, whatever. So you are always going to keep updating about that. But it’s getting better, which is good, but you never know with this thing. So we will see.”
He also spent a lot of time in Bosnia prior to returning for the NBA season. Nurkic was the last Blazer to report for camp.
“I didn’t want to be in the same situation I was in in the bubble,” Nurkic said. “Being so far away, if something happened, I would regret it later. So I picked to stay with family, to stay there. And whoever doesn’t understand that, I don’t care. I’m a human being first.”
Damian Lillard has stepped up to support his teammate.
“I’ve been aware that he has something going on with his family, and I think that comes first,” Lillard said. “That comes before basketball. I think we all understand that, and we’ve all been through things that allow us to understand that it can weigh on you, and it takes a toll, and it can take away from your focus and just how much you care about what happens on the court.”
Nurkic plans to get his feet underneath him and build on the stronger play he demonstrated against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I mean, people are acting like I’m dead, you know?” Nurkic said. “I really want to get going and help the team win games, but it’s just five, six games. I know I’m going to be all right. I didn’t forget how to play basketball.”
In the meantime, he is going to lean on his teammates and their support.
“Everybody has bad days, bad moments. I want bad days for myself, just because I want to see who is on my side, who is on Nurk’s team,” he said. “When everything goes smooth and you on top, everybody is going to be your friend. So when you lost the game and you played bad, I want to know how many texts you got, who reached out to you?”
Whatever the family situation is, the staff here at Blazer’s Edge wishes Jusuf Nurkic and his family the best in this difficult time.
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