Portland Trail Blazers Need A Mad Jusuf Nurkic For The 2018 Playoffs

Will someone please piss off Jusuf Nurkic? Anyone? Someone? Say something mean about his hair or taunt his slimmed down frame. Somebody, go to his house and kick his dog or shave his cat. Maybe, someone should just say he just isn’t the same player the Portland Trail Blazers acquired near the end of last season.

Oh wait, I can do that!

Nurkic hasn’t been the same player he was last season in Portland. There, I said it.

When the Blazers acquired Nurkic in February of 2017, nobody around here really knew what we were getting. All we really knew was that the Denver Nuggets had two starting-caliber centers and only 48 minutes to play them both. For whatever reason, the Nuggets fell out of favor with Nurkic and barely played him. So, off he went to the Blazers in a deal that sent Mason Plumlee to the Mile High City. Turns out, the Blazers got a beast. At least, temporarily.

After playing limited to zero minutes in Denver, Nurkic found significant playing time for the Blazers during their push to the playoffs. A year ago on this very date, Nurkic became only the second player ever, the other being Charles Barkley, to record 28-points, 20 rebounds, eight assists and six blocks in a single game. On March 28, against his former team, Nurkic put up 33 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Nurkic Fever was spreading rapidly through Portland.

Unfortunately, an injury sidelined Nurkic for the remaining seven games of the season and for most of the playoffs, which for the Blazers lasted only one round. But, Nurkic had already given new life to the Blazers and the promise of better moments come.

However, many attributed Nurkic’s resurrection in Portland to wanting to shove it in Denver’s face; to show the Nuggets they made a huge mistake in trading him. In short, Nurkic was furious that he was dumped. No doubt he felt slighted and cast away for a better version of himself in Nikola Jokic. Nurkic was the original Becca.

Early 2017 Nurkic was the guy going to the gym 24-7 after a breakup. He was the dude buying a whole new wardrobe and fancying himself a new haircut to show off to his ex whenever their paths crossed again.

Months later, after the dust has settled, Nurkic has been erratic at best. Now, he’s back to resembling that guy who is only going to the gym after having too much beer and pizza the day before.

Nurkic has shown flashes of why he could be one of the best big men in the game today. He’s also given us sufficient reasons as to why the Nuggets grew tired of him. Nurkic is talented, but can be lazy. He’s strong, but is too finesse at times. He’s got a great personality, but it doesn’t match the enthusiasm we need to see on the court.

To his credit, Nurkic has been performing better since the All-Star break. While we’ve seen glimpses of the man we knew from last season, we still haven’t seen the full display of potential, skill and talent coming together like it did a year ago. Even during this most recent stretch of games where he has been decent, Nurkic has been benched in the fourth quarter multiple times with rookie Zach Collins taking over his minutes in crunch time. We still haven’t seen the Bosnian Beast since Denver threw him asunder.

Nurkic should be a double-double monster EVERY night. A seven-footer who is 20 pounds shy of 300 and playing nearly 30 minutes a game should be averaging more than eight boards a game. Ed Davis, who is having a stellar season by the way, is two inches shorter and averaging nearly the same number of rebounds per game while playing 10 fewer minutes a night.

Both Davis and Nurkic are free agents at the end of the season. While it would be ideal to keep both players, Davis and Collins are making Nurkic seem more expendable, something no one would have dreamt of a year ago. Nurkic still has the edge offensively, however, and that may give him an advantage if comes down to the organization signing one or the other. But, I would almost fear losing Davis more, since you know what you are going to get night in and night out, producing in ways that stats can’t measure but is invaluable to a team with championship aspirations.

The next couple months will be important for Nurkic and the Blazers. After a blissful honeymoon period, the Blazers might be wondering if Nurkic is the right man to anchor the middle as Damian Lillard enters is prime years.

Which leads us to the only logical conclusion if we want to see early 2017 Nurkic, again. We need to make him mad. Like, really mad. We need to light the fire that was originally ignited through rejection and failure. We need Nurkic back in f-you mode.

So, here we go.

At 23 years of age, Nurkic is past his prime. He’s tall, but sluggish. He can’t hit a three in a grade school gym. Zach Randolph has more vertical than him. Nurkic’s introduction before the start of a game should be accompanied by the Shaqtin’ A Fool theme music. Nikola Jokic isn’t only better at basketball than Nurkic, he’s also much better looking.

There. That should do it. Now, I think I feel a fever coming on.

About John Stupak 44 Articles
John Stupak is a senior writer for Oregon Sports News since 2014. John has followed Oregon sports for nearly 30 years. He is a life-long Portland Trail Blazers fan and has had the privilege of covering the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Along with everything sports, he is fan of movies and of quality television (sorry CBS) in his spare time. John has a beautiful wife, Amanda, along with one soccer-loving, intelligent, and artistic daughter. John is an electrical tech designer by day and a writer by nights and weekends. You can follow John and all his musings on Twitter (@Stupak77).