The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround Wednesday morning at Talking Stick Resort Arena in preparation for tonight’s game versus the Phoenix Suns (tipoff scheduled for 7 pm on Rip City Radio 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…
• After starting the first four games of Portland’s preseason schedule, center Jusuf Nurkić will sit out Wednesday’s contest with a concussion suffered during Monday night’s victory versus the Kings in Sacramento. The injury occurred in the second quarter, when Kings forward Jack Cooley elbowed Nurkić in the face while flailing in order to sell a foul call (which he got).
“Second quarter, the guy — I don’t know the name — I feel like he play wrong sport,” said Nurkić of the injury. “I think I’m pretty sure he do it on purpose. I think the league need to do something about those moves and players who doing those on purpose things. That’s unnecessary contact and there’s no way somebody can explain moves like this.”
Cooley was assessed a technical foul after the play was reviewed, though Nurkić thinks that, at least in this case, the penalty wasn’t as severe as it should have been.
“I’m thankful I got a mask,” said Nurkić, who has been wearing a protective mask as a precaution after undergoing offseason oral surgery. “If I didn’t have mask I’d probably have stitches. That’s point for me: If I did that, probably I’m kicked out the game or something. Sometimes I feel like they not doing that because they think nothing happen, but the end of the day, the headache. I’m still try to play through and what’s going on. It was weird.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts noted that there was no rush with regard to getting Nurkić through the NBA’s concussion protocol, a battery of tests and evaluations that a player must go through before being cleared to return to full contact activities, due to the relative unimportance of preseason play.
“If this had been a regular season game, we probably could have gotten (Nurkić) through the protocol in order to be available tonight,” said Stotts. “But with the logistics of making that happen, it just made more sense to have him sit tonight and finish up the protocol tomorrow.”
Stotts has already noted he’ll likely rest some of his regular rotation players during Portland’s preseason schedule versus Maccabi Haifa of Israel’s Lagat HaAl league, so even if he clears the concussion protocol on Thursday, it’s possible Nurkić won’t play. If that’s the case, Nurkić says he feels he and the team have accomplished what he needed to during exhibition play.
“I think it’s good, I have great games so far,” said Nurkić. “What they’re expecting from me, I did and we winning and that’s all that matters. We playing, I think, way better defense than we was last year, everything going what we trying to do. I think we’re doing well and we want to keep improve that. End of the day, we know what’s our goal and that’s the playoffs and we want to be there. We have a goal and we gonna stick with that.”
• With Jusuf Nurkić out, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said he will start Ed Davis at center and rookie Zach Collins at power forward alongside Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Maurice Harkless. Stotts’ reasoning was two-fold.
First, Collins, selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 Draft, is one of the few players in the rotation who hasn’t had a preseason start, so Stotts figured Wednesday’s game presented an opportunity to change that. And second, he wants to see how the frontcourt combination of Davis and Collins performs in extended minutes.
As for minutes, Stotts said he didn’t think he would increase the starters’ minutes after keeping the unit under 29 minutes Monday night, though even that was subject to change depending on how the Suns approach the contest. All told, Stotts is happy with how his team’s preseason has played out thus far, and like most players and fans, is just about ready to move on to the next phase of the NBA season.
“I like the shorter preseason, to be honest,” said Stotts. “It seems like there’s always stuff that needs to be done at this point with a week to go before the season. But we’ll use Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to just clean up the things we need to clean up going into the first game.”