And now we know.
After missing the first three games of the postseason and the final eight games of the regular season with a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula, the Trail Blazers announced that center Jusuf Nurkić will play and start Saturday night versus the Warriors in Game Three of their first round playoff series.
“I definitely want to play,” said Nurkić, who status was not determined until after going through warmups prior to Game Three. “I want to give it a shot, I want to try. If it work, great. If not, nothing crazy. Fortunately I tell the team and the coach, it’s definitely my decision. I want to try and that’s it.”
Nurkić was listed as questionable for Game One, though he was held out of the game after going through warmups. He declared himself out the day before Game Two, leading to speculation that the 7-0 center in his third season out of Bosnian and Herzegovina might not play at all in the series, which the Warriors currently lead 2-0 after winning the first two games at Oracle Arena.
His status was listed as doubtful for Game Three, which is better than out but worse than questionable, leaving one to wonder if his condition had actually improved. But after going through extended warmup up prior to the Game Three, Nurkić met with the coaches and medical staff during which time he made his declared he felt he was healthy enough to play.
“The guys know that I’m tough person and I play one game with that,” said Nurkić in reference to play versus the Houston Rockets after he had already suffered the non-displaced fracture. “It’s not about that, it’s just about how can be worse and what can happen. But nobody can guarantee that so let’s keep it simple. I’m going to play, I definitely want to play in the playoffs and help my teammates to win and that’s all that matters.”
It’s very likely the Trail Blazers wouldn’t have made the postseason with Nurkić, who the team acquired along with a 2017 first round pick from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee and a second round pick.
Portland went 14-5 with Nurkić starting at center, proving himself to be the key figure in the run that helped the Trail Blazers lock up the eighth seed after being as many as 11 games under .500.
“Try just keep simple like I always do. Find my teammates and try to make for my team better. I’m a team player and I’m going to try to help my teammates to win. That’s all that matters.
Nurkić averaged 15.2 points on 51 percent shooting, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals in 20 games for the Trail Blazers this season. Now he’ll get to see what he can do in his first career playoff game in front of what is sure to be a raucous Moda Center crowd.
“I love this city and the fans, I definitely want to see how crazy they can be,” said Nurkić. “That’s all about.”