Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic season debut date set

Jusuf Nurkic Portland
Photo: NBA

Nearly a year after fracturing his leg, Portland Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic says he will make his season debut on March 15 against the Houston Rockets.

“I’m ready to help my team make the playoffs,” Nurkic told Yahoo Sports. “It’s time.”

Nurkic has been practicing since Jan. 23 and he’s been looking forward to getting back into game action.

“I worked my ass off to be in position to get back on the court and help my team, but game speed is going to be different,” Nurkic told Yahoo Sports. “I’m not going to be playing 40 minutes. But for me, mentally, I need to get these reps in before I can play [extended minutes]. Physically, I’m good. I had a calf strain recently, which is normal for the injury I had. I’ve been pleased with where my rehab is going. I never doubted I’d be back, but I had to make sure I was 100 percent. I can’t wait for [March 15].”

Before fracturing his leg on March 25, 2019, Nurkic averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.

Hassan Whiteside has held down the middle for the Trail Blazers this season, as he leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1) and is averaging a career-high 14.2 rebounds per game.

The Trail Blazers could choose to have Nurkic come off the bench for the time being, or they could possibly start him alongside Whiteside if they feel comfortable with it.

“He’s [Whiteside] my teammate,” Nurkic said. “I don’t know the plans going forward, but my mind is on how I’m going to help this team make the playoffs. We just need to sacrifice our games for the team’s good, do the little things that don’t show on the stat sheet and put our games together for possibly the playoffs.”

Carmelo Anthony has spent more time at the four spot, but with the return of Nurkic, he could start spending more time at the three where it makes more sense for him.

Trevor Ariza has been starting, but could come off the bench once Nurkic is back in the lineup.