Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers suffered a horrific leg injury during a home game Monday against the Brooklyn Nets. The veteran forward, who has been an important member of his playoff-bound squad, landed awkwardly after trying to tip in the ball on an offensive rebound.
Players from both teams were visibly upset as Nurkic lay in agony on the floor of Portland’s Moda Center, while fans chanted his name, before he was taken off on a stretcher. The injury to his left leg almost certainly ends his season, the fifth in the NBA for the 24-year-old Bosnian.
A first-round pick in 2014 who was immediately traded by the Chicago Bulls to the Denver Nuggets, Nurkic was traded again in February 2017 to Portland, where he quickly blossomed. The 7-foot center was averaging 15.4 points this season, with 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists, with an impressive player efficiency rating of 23.1, good for 19th in the NBA.
He had 32 points — one shy of his career-high — to go with 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and two steals before suffering the injury in double-overtime during the Blazers’ 148-144 win Monday.
Nurkic’s play for the Blazers had become all the more important in the wake of a knee injury suffered earlier this month by C.J. McCollum. The shooting guard, second on the team in scoring to Damian Lillard with Nurkic third, is set to be out at least through Portland’s upcoming four-game road trip.
“It’s kind of discouraging to see that … but now we gotta lean on each other even more,” Lillard said of Nurkic’s injury after Monday’s game.
Portland is in fourth place in the Western Conference, in position to host a first-round postseason series but needing to stay ahead of the surging Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs. Players on other teams Monday took to social media to express their support for Nurkic.
“Damn … hate to see this,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said of Nurkic on Twitter. “Get well soon big guy.”
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