Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic set to return to action March 15

The Portland Trail Blazers big man is set to make his long-awaited return in a home game against the Houston Rockets on March 15.

Nearly a full year after breaking the tibia and fibula in his left leg, Portland Trail Blazers‘ center Jusuf Nurkic says he’s ready to return to action.

It was March 25 of last year, in a double-overtime game against the New Jersey Nets that Nurkic went down. He told Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports that he plans to be back on the court March 15 against the Houston Rockets at the Moda Center (a 12:30 p.m. tip-off game that will be nationally broadcast on ABC).

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve been there before. There were struggles and fun times, but mainly during my rehab I was focused on how I could get back to normal. How I can get the reps in to make sure I’m preparing myself properly. It’s been a crazy year with so many emotions, but I’m glad it’s finally time.”

The Trail Blazers traded for center Hassan Whiteside during the off-season, then kept the former Miami Heat big man at the trade deadline. Nurkic says the two are teammates, and he’s willing to sacrifice to help the team get into the playoffs.

Before he went down last season, the Bosnian Beast was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, both career highs. After his injury, Portland signed current Boston Celtics big man Enes Kanter, who helped the team not only make the playoffs, but get to the Western Conference Finals.

Without Nurkic, and injuries to forward Zach Collins and guard Rodney Hood, Portland has been playing catch-up in the race for the final playoff spot this season. They currently trail the Memphis Grizzlies by four games in the loss column with 19 games left on the schedule.

Ten of those are home games, and seven are on the road, but that includes a six-game road trip starting March 22 in Minnesota.

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Collins, who underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder early in the season, has said he is hoping to return sometime between mid-to-late March, so Portland could be near full strength for the stretch run.

Haynes’ article includes more details about how Nurkic hopes to get back into game shape, and his gratitude to Portland fans for their support following his injury. It’s well worth a full read.