Photo by Bruce Ely
News broke today about the long awaited return of Jusuf Nurkić, when Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported, after almost a full year of being sidelined due to a severely broken leg, the Portland Trail Blazer’s big man will make his NBA return on March 15 against the Houston Rockets.
On March 25, 2019, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets in overtime to secure a spot in the playoffs. That should have been cause for celebration. But instead, it was clouded with what would turn out to be a season long heartbreak for Portland and it’s fans. What happened in the last 3 minutes of overtime during that game is something that Blazer fans have been constantly reminded of over the last 11 months.
With 2:22 left on the clock in overtime, center Jusuf Nurkić ended up on the floor with a gruesome season ending Injury. Further tests showed that he had compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula. It was a tough blow for the Blazers. Nurkić has always been a fan favorite, and as he’s sat on the bench for nearly a year, that’s become even more true.
While his sense of humor and kind personality has always been evident, Nurkić has become infamous for his antics off the court. He’s trolled everyone from his teammates, court side reporters and even people from the opposing teams. He’s been a water boy and cheerleader, and he's made waves with his risky fashion choices.
More recently he’s added a partner in crime in the form of Zach Collins, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. The two together have offered endless encouragement to their teammates and endless entertainment to Blazer fans. If ever there was a moral boosting duo, it’s Nurkić and Collins.
There have been rumors circulating for months about Nurkic's return, and while no official timeline had been announced until now, speculation was that he would be back sometime in the coming weeks now that the all star break has passed. However, he has reportedly not had a full practice with the team since his calf strain in January. On the “Talkin’ Blazers” podcast with Channing Frye, in an episode that went live on February 28, Frye and his co-host, Dan Sheldon, talked about a possible clue as to the timeline for Nurkic’s return.
“The Channing Frye timeline, If I remember correctly, now correct me if I’m wrong,” Sheldon said on the episode, “would be after being out of basketball for so long, you wanted five solid practices.” Frye quickly replied “Yeah, he’s not getting none of those.” Sheldon went on, “Five solid practices based on the Blazers current schedule... April 5th would be the earliest return date to a basketball game for Jusuf Nurkić right now. If he could practice right now."
It has been looking less and less likely for Nurkić to suit up for the Blazers this season, unit now.
Although fans have held out hope, anticipating his return and speculating about the time frame. Nurkic played into that on social media, teasing his return. On January 1, 2020 he posted on Twitter “dear basketball I can’t wait for our reunion #2020”. Then, on February 22, 2020, he posted a GIF of himself on the court with the word “loading...” across the bottom.
While Nurkić seemed to be avoiding reporters and direct questions about his return, his teammates had been fairly vocal. “I look forward to having him back.” CJ McCollum said about Nurkic’s return, shortly after Damian Lillard’s groin injury, “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.”
And now, the wait is finally over. It couldn’t have come soon enough with fans chomping at the bit to have their beloved Bosnian beast back on the court and in the game.
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