Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is enjoying the best season of his career and he doesn’t want to see it disrupted by a trade, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Along with averaging 14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, Nurkic has provided a strong interior presence for a defense that was the league’s worst last season. Fivethirtyeight.com’s RAPTOR rating has Nurkic as the eighth-best defender in the league.
Even so, Nurkic is considered to be a trade candidate because of his $12MM expiring contract. He said Joe Cronin talked to him after taking over as interim general manager and promised to keep him as part of the core in Portland.
“Nothing is 100 percent, but I feel like for the team, and who I think I am as a player, there is no way I’m leaving (in a trade),” Nurkic said. “I don’t see anything possible. Obviously, I want to be part of this organization as long as (Damian Lillard) is, and as long as we want to win. But if the team wants to go in a different direction, then I’m willing to do whatever they want to do.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- The loss of Nassir Little, who may miss the rest of the season with a labral tear in his left shoulder, was a major disappointment for the Trail Blazers, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Little had established himself as a rotation player in his third NBA season and his first under head coach Chauncey Billups. “He didn’t play very much before I was here, or at least have a consistent role, so one of the things for him was to try to earn the trust of the coaching staff, and he did that,” Billups said. “And to earn the trust of his players, he did that.”
- Thunder forward Mike Muscala is considering right ankle surgery after the season ends, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Muscala has been dealing with pain in the ankle since suffering a stress fracture last season.
- Timberwolves coach Chris Finch says the team has “clean-up things to do” regarding the new defensive approach he implemented this season, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota has been a top-10 defense for most of the year, but has surrendered at least 110 points in eight of its last 10 games.