Going into Media Day, one of the main points of interest was Jusuf Nurkić’s physical transformation in the offseason. Admittedly out of shape when he arrived in Portland after the trade that sent Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for the 7-0 Bosnian and a 2017 first round pick, Nurkić entered the offseason with a renewed dedication slimming down. That goal became even more important after his season ended due to a non-displaced fracture in his right leg, for fairly obvious reasons.
So it was no surprise that the first questions Nurkić was asked when he took the podium at Media Day was about his weight loss. While fans and media alike were able to generally track Nurkić progress during the offseason thanks to his prolific use of social media, it was still just short of startling to see the “Bosnian Beast” in uniform for the first time since losing roughly 35 pounds.
But while a slimmer, trimmer Jusuf Nurkić might look a bit less beastly, he noted that Portland’s mentality and approach this season, especially an increasingly difficult Western Conference, needs to be anything but.
“It’s exciting to be in a position to play against best teams,” said Nurkić. “All we can do is put all we can together to be bad boys. We are bad boys. When you come to the Portland you know you’re not going to have wins easy, so I can’t wait. Even if they not come here, they need to come here to play against us, so I can’t wait to see them.”
Nurkić pointed to the Pistons teams that made the NBA Finals in 2004-04 and 2004-05 as a team who had the kind of mentality he things the Trail Blazers should emulate. Those Pistons teams, which featured Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamliton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, were always at the top of the league in terms of defensive rating, which, along with playing with more of an edge, was also something Nurkić though the Trail Blazers should try to mimic.
“Right now, we want to be the bad boys, we need to play a lot,” said Nurkić. “Our defense was trash, to be honest, before and gonna be better. When I came it was better and we going to keep improving that. It’s simple: if you want to win you need to play defense, especially if you don’t have a reputation, what we have in the league, like small market team. All we can do we fight. If we do right and stay healthy, I can expect big things from this team.”
And perhaps some badder things as well.