Hours before the NBA Trade Deadline, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic’s name is still flying in trade rumors, like it has the last several weeks. The latest speculation comes from the Rose Garden Report’s Sean Highkin, who pinpointed the 7-foot pivot as the likeliest Blazer to be dealt today.
In a piece published this morning for The Athletic, Blazers beat writer Jason Quick got a candid Nurkic to discuss the swirling rumors and where he stands with the Blazers organization.
Contrary to the reporting of Highkin and others, Nurkic said Portland general manager Joe Cronin informed him earlier this month he wouldn’t be traded, but in his ninth NBA year he understands things can change fast in this league. Still, he didn’t let on like the trade deadline speculation was affecting him.
“I appreciate the transparency, but I understand the business this is,” Nurkić said. “I wouldn’t be the first, or the last, who was told something and it doesn’t happen … so even if they told me one thing and another thing happens, I don’t have a problem with that. But my mind and my heart are here.”
Nurkić says he is so committed to the Blazers that he has canceled his All-Star break vacation with his wife to stay in Portland and rehabilitate his left calf strain, which was aggravated Feb. 1 at Memphis. His sights are on returning to the lineup Feb. 23 at Sacramento, the Blazers’ first game back from the break.
“I’m more worried about my calf than the trading deadline,” Nurkić said.
At 27-28 and 10th in the Western Conference, the Blazers are trying to vault ahead of the logjam near the play-in. Under second-year head coach Chauncey Billups, the team is also trying to change its offensive identity away from the pick-and-roll that’s benefited Nurkic’s play-style for nearly seven seasons in Portland. Despite the change, Nurkic said he isn’t going to change his attitude.
“I don’t see anything getting better that involves me,” Nurkić said of his offense role. “But I’m not going to ask for a trade or anything like that. They know that and I feel like that’s how everybody — the coaches, front office — feels about me. I showed them (last summer) this is where I want to be, and I’m here. At the end of the day, I need to do better with the minutes I get.”
The Blazers traded starting wing Josh Hart minutes before tip-off of last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors. With less than three hours until the deadline, clearly, Nurkic’s future in Portland is still up in the air.