Jusuf Nurkic‘s presence on the court has opened up the Blazers‘ offense and his energy has helped the team on the defensive end, Mike Richman of the Oregonian writes. Coach Terry Stotts praised the big man after Tuesday’s win over the Thunder.
“There’s no question he’s had an impact,” Stotts said of Nurkic. “I don’t want to undersell that. But I do think everybody is playing well off of him. But I think he has infused some energy and a different look. His style of play is obviously different than [Mason Plumlee]. The way he’s been able to integrate with our team on both ends of the court has made a huge difference.”
Here’s more from the Northwest Division:
- The addition of Nurkic has helped the Blazers get back into the playoff picture and Joe Freeman of the Oregonian (podcast link) wonders if the big man can be the team’s center long-term. Nurkic is averaging 14.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 54.9% from the field since coming to Portland.
- Steven Adams, who signed a $100MM extension during the offseason, admits that he’s struggled on the defensive end lately, but added that the Thunder‘s issues go beyond his poor play, as Erik Horne of the Oklahoman relays. “Even though your defensive coverages aren’t perfect or everything, the backside’s still got to be there. It’s literally a five-man thing. It ain’t really on one guy on the team. It ain’t so much scouting. It ain’t scouting at all. It’s our discipline to the defensive system we have going on.” Oklahoma City has lost four straight games.
- Adreian Payne, who missed the last 13 games for the Wolves while being treated for thrombocytopenia, has been cleared to practice and the big man is thrilled to be back on the court, as Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press passes along. “I’m feeling good,” Payne said. “Healthy. I’m just trying to get back in shape. I’m happy to be with the team.”