According to the Blazers, Nurkic has played through symptoms of plantar fasciitis all season. He’ll undergo treatment and will be reevaluated at the four-week mark.
Nurkic had played terrific basketball as of late for Portland, averaging 21.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game during the team’s four-game win streak leading into the All-Star break. The hot streak boosted his season-long averages to 15.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 56 appearances (28.2 MPG).
While it’s possible Nurkic’s symptoms have worsened this month and made it impossible for him to continue playing through the injury, I suspect today’s announcement is more about the organization’s priorities for the rest of the season.
The 25-34 Blazers currently hold the No. 10 seed in the West and technically still have a shot at the playoffs, but the front office likely isn’t especially motivated to make it — the team would lose its first-round pick if it lands outside of the lottery. As such, it makes sense for Portland to hold out players like Nurkic and Damian Lillard, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, rather than making an all-out push for a spot in the postseason.
With Nurkic sidelined, Drew Eubanks could play an immediate role for the Blazers after signing a 10-day hardship contract on Tuesday. We may also see more small-ball lineups from head coach Chauncey Billups.