The Trail Blazers haven’t offered many specifics on Jusuf Nurkic‘s return from the broken leg that has sidelined him to start the 2019/20 season, but Shams Charania of The Athletic hears that the big man is targeting a return close to the All-Star break in February. According to Charnia, Nurkic is making “positive strides” in his rehab process.
While the Blazers knew coming into the season that they’d be without Nurkic for much of the year, they’ve been hit hard by injuries since then, with Zach Collins and Rodney Hood also suffering long-term ailments. Collins is expected to be out through the All-Star break with a dislocated left shoulder, while Hood won’t return this season after tearing his left Achilles.
Hassan Whiteside has been the Blazers’ starting center this season with Nurkic – and Collins – on the shelf. While Whiteside has held his own in the middle and provided solid rim protection, he’s not as reliable a two-way threat as Nurkic, who has been one of Portland’s most valuable players in recent years.
Still, even if Nurkic is able to return in February, it remains to be seen where Portland will be in the Western Conference playoff race by then. The Blazers off to a 10-15 start, which is disappointing but places them just a game-and-a-half behind the eighth-seeded Suns. It’s possible the club will upgrade its roster in the coming weeks or months to help solidify its status as a postseason contender, though president of basketball operations Neil Olshey isn’t talking as if he expects to do anything drastic.