It’s not a real game. Not yet. But Thursday’s Trail Blazer scrimmage against the Indiana Pacers will be Jusuf Nurkic‘s first chance to be on a court playing basketball against another NBA team since March 25, 2019.
It was a broken leg, but seemingly never a broken spirit and on the night before the Thursday contest, Nurkic — an emotional player — downplayed the emotion of Thursday’s event.
How does he feel?
«Same as I feel about practice,» he said via video conference with media. «I think it’s going to be the same approach. I think it’s going to help just to see different people, but I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to play the right way.
«I am excited. I’ve got to lock in. But I’m excited with the practice. I just have to stay locked in and focused on what we have to do. What we’re trying to do. I’m excited for myself, but more trying to see what we can do as a team, not just as myself.»
Obviously, an emotional player is working to try to control his emotions — a good thing when facing the first of three scrimmages prior to an eight-game seeding schedule.
«I’ve been working on that since day one,» he said. «Leave everybody alone, play my game and whatever happens, happens.
«This is the best possible thing to happen to me. To have a whole camp. Go through the whole thing.
«It does help that we have no fans. I’m not going to be playing the game for Rip City fans in Moda Center. That would be way more emotions. Just the way you prepare for it. And here, as you can see, scrimmage games, preseason games, there is nobody out there. Just TV, you and the teammates.
«So I think that’s kind of helpful as far as emotions. Probably going to be more of a practice approach.»
And by all accounts, practice has been going well. Nurkic got some extra work during Wednesday’s workout alongside Hassan Whiteside and as the roll man on a pick-and-roll, fed Whiteside for a lob dunk. Coach Terry Stotts said Wednesday that the two centers will be on the court at the same time against the Pacers.
«They will play together tomorrow,» Stotts said. «We spent a lot of time having those guys play together today because we hadn’t done it. Nurk as a roll man, as a playmaker, you know he can make passes, make plays, in the paint, either as a scorer or as a passer. So i hope we can see one of those lobs tomorrow.»
Likely we will see the Nurkic-Damian Lillard pick-and-roll more often, though. Lillard said that the chemistry between those two picked up right where it left off before Nurkic’s injury and continues to grow.
«We just complement each other very well,» he said. «We fit together very well.»
Jusuf Nurkic keeping his emotions under control as he nears Thursday return originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest