In typical Neil Olshey fashion, the Blazers have said very little about Jusuf Nurkic’s return date. Terry Stotts and the rest of the organization have repeatedly answered any questions regarding his return by saying that he has been given “no timetable” to come back. When Paul George suffered a similar injury back in 2014, he returned in 247 days. As of today, January 12th, Jusuf Nurkic has been rehabbing for 292 days. And that is in no way to say that he is healing slowly. Nurkic is much bigger and heavier than George, so a longer rehab is expected. The Blazers have rightly been very cautious about rushing back their star big man with a rocky injury history.
With that being said, you have to think that Nurkic’s return is right around the corner. With the team struggling to compete in games and the lack of healthy big men on the roster, the Blazers need Nurkic now more than ever. In the last few weeks, Nurkic started traveling with the team and has been going through some fairly intense non-contact workouts (see below).
At this point, expect Nurkic to be back any day now. With the way the Blazers have handled the situation thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly announce that Nurkic will start in a game just hours before tip-off. The news will probably come at a completely unexpected time, lifting the spirits of the fans and the team tremendously. Let’s just hope his return is a home game.
While it will probably take Nurkic a few weeks to get back to his old self, simply having another 7-footer on the roster will be an instant boost for the Blazers. Last night against the Bucks, the tallest active player on the Blazers’ roster was Anthony Tolliver. At one point in the game, they were playing six-foot-right rookie Jaylen Hoard at center. Once Nurkic comes back, Neil Olshey and the rest of the organization will have a much better idea of what to do with Hassan Whiteside going forward.
If Nurkic does come back healthy, he might just turn the Blazers’ entire season around. Despite a horrible start to the season, the Blazers sit just 1.5 games back of the 8-seed Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference standings. Nurkic is, in my opinion, the Blazers’ second best player, and is one of the most efficient big men in the entire league. While Whiteside has played very well this season, he is nowhere near as good of a passer, defender, screener, or finisher as Nurkic is. If they Blazers want to have any chance of making a playoff run, they’ll need him to come back strong.