Jusuf Nurkic’s impending return brings Trail Blazers optimism

Jamie Hudson
NBC Sports Northwest

Mar. 25, 2019 – The day that is always remembered in Rip City as the day that the Bosnian Beast Jusuf Nurkic went down.

The Blazers were hosting the Brooklyn Nets. The game went to overtime.

Portland won the game and secured a playoff spot with the win.

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But, that's not what anyone ever does or will remember about that game.

With just 2:22 remaining in OT, Nurkic came crashing down. He was lying on the baseline holding his left leg, while Nets players ran the other way not wanting to look at the gruesome injury.   

Now with nearly 11 months gone by, the Bosnian Beast has been working hard on his rehab. He has said he is working to get both his body and mind right. And, he warned that everyone needs to get ready for a ‘Double Beast.' 

"I'm not expecting myself to just do the rehab," Nurkic said in mid-December. "I want to get better, so I want to get better as a player, better as a person. I see a lot of things differently from the court, from the bench, and in the locker room… I've been there, like a totally different person to see the different perspective and I feel like I can help even more."

I feel hungry… When I'm with the team I feel even more hungry. I lost some weight and I feel great, more explosive, more quick. I just feel like when the day comes, I'm going to be the double beast.

 

So when will the Double Beast make his triumph return?

Following Wednesday's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that there is still no timetable on Nurkic's return.

There has never actually been an official timeline or any targeted date set by the team; however, the talk around the league has been that Nurk would be back soon after the All-Star break.

That assumption was mostly based on looking at the injury and basing it on other players who have suffered such an injury.

Just look at Paul George.

Aug. 1 2014, George landed awkwardly at the bottom of the basket after fouling James Harden during a Team USA scrimmage. That's when he suffered a compound fracture of both bones in his lower right leg.

On Apr. 5 2015, George made his return to the Pacers line-up for the first time since sustaining his leg injury.

Eight months later.

But, of course, with Nurkic's rehab, it's a bit different after taking into account Nurk is 7'0" and 290 pounds.

Plus, the Blazers want to make sure he is completely healthy and confident before making his return.

And now with the unknown severity of Damian Lillard's right groin injury, the future of the Blazers may seem bleak.  

That's not how the players feel though, because they are optimistic about the Bosnian Beast getting back on the court and finishing out the season strong.

After Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum discussed how much they need the big fella back.  

I look forward to having him back. Like I always tell him, ‘whenever you're ready – no one knows when you're going to be ready, but you...' We'll have open arms whenever he decides to come back. It's obvious we could use him... We've been down a lot of bodies and gone through a lot this season, and obviously we don't know what is going to be the timetable for Dame, so as soon as we can have him back the better.  -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

For the last month, Lillard and Carmelo Anthony have echoed those sentiments of them being eager to get Nurk back. 

With Nurk's possible return lingering and the fight that Lillard is ready to put up, the Blazers are not out of the playoff chase.

Portland is five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

But, don't think for a second that Lillard has already put this season aside.

It's far from over. Believe that. It's far from over. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

The 29-year-old says he is ready to average over 40 points or whatever the team needs from him.

"If that's what it takes. If that's what it takes, I'm with it and I know that I can," Lillard said. "I know a lot of people have talked about-- ‘Man he is on a run right now' and all these things, but don't think that it's over. Do not think that that's it. Teams have been giving me more attention and I kind of backed off and try to make the right plays because of the attention I've been getting, but it's a long way to go. We have a lot of home games and a lot of winnable games. Just know that I'm not going to go away."

With the Trail Blazers favorable schedule, which includes 15 of their final 26 games at home, along with the likely return of Nurk, Lillard's determination, and throw in the possible return of Zach Collins in March – there's no way the Blazers can be counted out.

Jusuf Nurkics impending return brings Trail Blazers optimism originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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