Jusuf Nurkic

Nuggets Notes: Jackson, Nurkic, Jokic, Altitude, Malone

Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson got a taste of the NBA Finals as a rookie in 2012 with the Thunder, who lost to the Heat. Jackson finds himself facing the Heat again 11 years later after passing through several organizations.

Jackson never realized how hard it would be to get back to the Finals, he told Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.

“I just thought it was going to be championship after championship after championship,” Jackson said. “So being here, taking 11 years, the ups and downs of the business, injuries, changing franchises, yeah, I don’t take it for granted. I think the 11-year run has made me realize how much luck you really have to have.”

We have more on the Nuggets as they head into the Finals:

  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic remains close friends with Nikola Jokic. Nurkic asked for a trade after it became clear Jokic was Denver’s center of the future and he was dealt to Portland during the 2016/17 season. Jokic actually offered to the coaching staff to give Nurkic his starting job back prior to the deal, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “We still talk about what could have been,” Nurkic said. “But everything happens for a reason. I’m happy with my career. And I’m happy for him too … His story is really amazing.”
  • Coach Michael Malone hopes Denver’s altitude will mess with the Heat‘s heads and lungs, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes. “When we can establish that pace of play, that makes it really hard for visiting teams to kind of sustain and stay with that initially,” Malone said. “Most teams will wind up getting their second wind and be able to work themselves into that. But yeah, the altitude is here, man. Might as well use it to our advantage.”
  • The smartest thing owner Stan Kroenke did was remain patient with Malone, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post opines. His core players believe in him and that’s why the Nuggets are in the Finals for the first time. Malone is grateful for the ownership group’s trust in him. “I feel really fortunate and blessed to be working in an organization run by Stan and Josh Kroenke,” Malone said. “They gave me a chance eight years ago to lead this team, and the most important part of this last eight years is their ability to be patient and have a big-picture approach and let this thing grow into what it is today.”

Blazers Rumors: Grant, Thybulle, Reddish, No. 3 Pick, Sharpe, More

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant still appears on track to become a free agent this offseason rather than accepting the maximum four-year, $113MM extension he can sign until June 30. Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report said he doesn’t expect the annual salary on Grant’s next deal to be worth more than about $30MM, but suggests that the forward may be waiting until free agency in order to get a fifth year from Portland.

“I think it’s going to come out around five years, $150 million, with probably a player option,” Highkin said. “I know he gets talked about as one of the top free agents on the market, but I’d expect that gets done pretty quickly. It might even be a (6:01 pm) on June 30th type of signing.”

As for restricted free agents Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, Highkin views Thybulle as the player who is more likely to re-sign with the Blazers, suggesting that the former Sixer will be a priority for the front office. Highkin is less certain about Portland’s appetite for a new deal with Reddish, telling Scotto that the team would probably have interest in bringing back the former lottery pick if the price is right.

Here are more highlights from the conversation between Scotto and Highkin:

  • Scotto has gotten the sense that the Trail Blazers are comfortable keeping the No. 3 overall pick and drafting either Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, even as they plan to continue building around Damian Lillard. However, Highkin believes Portland is far more likely to trade the pick for an established veteran, mentioning two-way forwards like Jaylen Brown and Pascal Siakam as potential targets while downplaying the likelihood of the club pursuing offensive-minded players like Zach LaVine. Another Raptors forward, OG Anunoby, has also been linked to the Blazers and would be a good fit on the roster, but Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to give up the No. 3 pick for Anunoby.
  • There are some people in Portland who believe Shaedon Sharpe has All-Star potential, according to Scotto. Highkin agrees that the Blazers are high on Sharpe and expects he’ll be kept out of any trade that doesn’t return a superstar (Joel Embiid or something like that”). Anfernee Simons is the more likely trade candidate, Highkin explains, given his larger cap hit and his fit next to Lillard. Sharpe, who has more size and defensive upside than Simons, is the more logical long-term backcourt partner for Dame.
  • The Blazers may make some changes to their coaching staff this summer to give Chauncey Billups some more experienced assistants, Highkin notes. The organization remains optimistic about Billups’ potential as a head coach and wants to give him an opportunity to lead a more competitive roster, Highkin adds.
  • When the Blazers signed Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $70MM contract last offseason, that didn’t necessarily mean they thought he was their center of the future, according to Highkin, who believes the team is “very open” to moving Nurkic and will explore trade possibilities this summer. Highkin suggests that Nurkic’s willingness to be shut down with a leg injury in 2021/22 when Portland went into tank mode played a part in Portland’s decision to “take care” of him in free agency last summer.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Potential Trades, Nurkic, Little

After saying earlier this week that he wants the Trail Blazers to pursue veteran additions during the offseason, Damian Lillard doubled down on those comments on Wednesday in an appearance on “Stephen A’s World” (Twitter video link). Following two straight years of losing marked by late-season tanking, Lillard said the organization understands how important it is for him to part of a contending team.

Lillard clarified that his statement shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat and indicated that he won’t demand a trade if personnel moves don’t turn out the way he hopes. However, he wants Portland’s management to make a firm decision on whether it plans to compete right away or try to rebuild.

“I ain’t gonna say I’m putting them on the clock,” Lillard told Stephen A. Smith.” I’m just saying if those things can’t be done — if we can’t do something significant like that — then we won’t have a chance to compete on that level. And then, not only will I have a decision to make, but I think the organization will, too. Because at that point, it’s like, ‘Are you gonna go young, or are we gonna get something done?’ I think we just kinda been on the fence with fully committing to either one. I just think we at that point now where everybody wants to win. They believe I deserve that opportunity.”

There’s more on the Trail Blazers:

  • The Knicks, Nets, Heat, Warriors and Clippers are the teams most likely to pursue Lillard if he becomes available, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy. General managers throughout the league don’t expect the Blazers to consider trading Lillard unless he requests it, but he could throw the league into a frenzy if that happens. “They’re not just going to ship him out to get rid of him,” an NBA executive told Deveney. “He has shown them loyalty and they’re going to do the same. But more and more, there is a bigger chance he will ask out. He could very well be the focal point of all talk in the next couple months.”
  • Jusuf Nurkic prefers to stay in Portland, but his contract could be a useful piece for salary matching in the type of trade that Lillard wants, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The veteran center still has three seasons remaining on the four-year, $70MM deal he signed last summer. “As long as I’m wanted, if people want me here, I’m going to be here,” Nurkic said. “I’m not going to ask for a trade to try to go somewhere else.”
  • Nassir Little underwent surgery on Thursday for a right-side core muscle injury, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release. Little was limited to 54 games this season and has been sidelined since March 31.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Joe, Ingles, McDaniels

As Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (subscription required) writes, the Trail Blazers looked ready on Friday to pull the plug on the 2022/23 season.

Having slipped out of the play-in race during a recent six-game losing streak, Portland ruled out Damian Lillard (right calf tightness) and Jusuf Nurkic (right knee soreness) for Friday’s game vs. Chicago and ran out a starting lineup made up of Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Trendon Watford, and Drew Eubanks. The outcome was predictable, with the Blazers losing to the Bulls by 28 points.

With the Trail Blazers now sitting at 32-41, three-and-a-half games back of the No. 10 seed in the West with nine games to go, there’s little reason to believe the team will resume its push for a play-in spot down the stretch — and it’s possible we won’t see a whole lot more of banged-up vets like Lillard and Nurkic this season. That would be good news for playoff hopefuls like the Thunder and Pelicans, who will visit Portland on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Given the team’s lack of impact moves on the free agent market since relocating to Oklahoma City, Isaiah Joe may be the most important free agent addition in Thunder history, declares Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link). While Joe won’t become a star and may never even be a starter in OKC, he has enjoyed a breakout season and looks like a potential rotation player for years to come, Lowe writes. Joe has knocked down 42.0% of his three-point attempts this season and the Thunder have a plus-6.6 net rating when he’s on the court, easily the best mark by any player who has spent the entire year with the club.
  • Bucks forward Joe Ingles admits that he took it hard when he was traded by the Jazz at the 2022 trade deadline, but he has since comes to terms with it and now appreciates the fact that he got to spend eight years with the franchise, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The roster overhaul that the Jazz have undergone since Ingles’ departure made it easier for him to move on. “We had a hell of a run; at some point, they always come to an end,” he said. “Ours did — not by the players’ choice, but that’s how it works.”
  • In an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link), Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels says he thinks he’s the best defender in the NBA.

Jusuf Nurkic Returning To Trail Blazers’ Lineup

After being sidelined since February 1 with a strained left calf, Jusuf Nurkic is available for Wednesday’s game in Boston, the Trail Blazers announced (via Twitter).

Coach Chauncey Billups said Nurkic will be in the starting lineup, but he’ll be on a minutes restriction, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

The veteran center played 45 games before the injury, averaging 13.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per night. He returns in the middle of a tight playoff race, with Portland currently in a three-way tie for 10th place in the West at 31-34.

Nurkic was reportedly made available prior to the trade deadline, but his contract made it difficult for the Blazers to find any takers. The 28-year-old has three fully guaranteed seasons remaining at $54.375MM.

Anfernee Simons and Justise Winslow, who are both recovering from sprained ankles, continue to be listed as out on the Blazers’ latest injury report. Simons will miss his fourth straight game tonight, while Winslow hasn’t played since December 21.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Wolves, Hyland, Jackson, Sexton

The Trail Blazers continued to deal with a number of injury absences as the second half of their season got underway on Thursday night. As Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes, Jusuf Nurkic (calf), Justise Winslow (ankle), and Anfernee Simons (ankle) are still on the shelf for Portland.

Nurkic hasn’t returned to practice yet, though Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said the veteran center is “getting better.” Winslow, meanwhile, has begun taking part in non-contact drills, while Simons is doing weight-bearing activities but no on-court work.

The Trail Blazers opted to give Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant the night off on Thursday following a series of weather-related travel days that saw Portland players spend several hours on the team plane on both Wednesday and Thursday. The club’s resulting starting lineup in Sacramento was an odd one that featured three trade-deadline additions (Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Ryan Arcidiacono) along with two reserves (Drew Eubanks and Nassir Little).

While the Blazers lost in Sacramento, Billups liked what he saw from Little, whose 26 points were easily a season high (story via Fentress). Reddish also continued his solid play following the trade that sent him from New York to Portland, scoring 24 points of his own.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves came close to acquiring Bones Hyland from the Nuggets at this month’s trade deadline, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North said in his podcast The Scoop (hat tip to HoopsHype). According to Wolfson, Minnesota “would have done what the Clippers did” (given up two second-round picks) or even more than that. However, Wolfson believes Denver’s ownership group was reluctant to do any favors for former Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who now runs Minnesota’s front office.
  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports spoke to Ish Smith, who previously played with Reggie Jackson in Oklahoma City and Detroit, about what the Nuggets‘ newest point guard can bring to the team. Jackson played 18 minutes in his Denver debut on Thursday, scoring seven points to go along with four rebounds and a pair of assists.
  • Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who strained his left hamstring in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, remains sidelined as a result of that injury. The expectation it that Sexton will be reevaluated on Monday, says Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

Northwest Notes: Hyland, Blazers, Nurkic, Wolves, Thunder

Second-year Nuggets guard Bones Hyland is considered a strong candidate to be moved ahead of this afternoon’s trade deadline, but if it were up to teammate Michael Porter Jr., Hyland wouldn’t be going anywhere, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). In addition to wanting Hyland to remain in Denver, Porter would also like to see him back in the club’s rotation.

“Bones is one of my favorite players, and I think he’s such a great player and person,” Porter said. “Circumstances make it so that sometimes he’s misunderstood, but me and him have a good connection. He’s such a talented player, obviously he should be on the floor. Everyone knows that. I don’t know what the future’s gonna hold for him, but I wish he was here. I wish he would stay here, and I wish it could be figured out. Obviously, that’s not up to me. That’s up to the front office.”

Hyland, who reportedly hasn’t been thrilled with his modest role in Denver, has been a DNP-CD for the team’s past four games. The Nuggets are believed to be seeking a first-round pick or a defensive-minded wing in any deal involving the 22-year-old.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although the Trail Blazersdeal sending Josh Hart to New York doesn’t exactly scream “win now,” star guard Damian Lillard didn’t mind the move, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I think it’s a game of chess … you gotta do what you gotta do, and trust the process that repositioning ourselves will be beneficial,” Lillard said. “… I’ve always liked Cam Reddish a lot.”
  • Jusuf Nurkic recognizes that the Trail Blazers‘ plans could change at the last minute before the deadline, but he said on Wednesday that general manager Joe Cronin has told him he won’t be on the move this week. “We had a really good, nice chat,” Nurkic said, per Quick. “I don’t know if I should really put it out there, but he said, ‘No, we are not trading you.'”
  • Given how aggressively the Timberwolves recruited and pursued D’Angelo Russell in 2019 and 2020, Wednesday’s trade agreement sending Russell out in a deal for Mike Conley represents a major philosophical shift in the team’s direction at point guard, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. While Russell was a scorer who could pass, Conley is more of a “classic” point guard, and the Wolves could use a veteran with his ability to organize and lead a team, Krawczynski explains.
  • It’s unlikely to be too eventful a trade deadline for the Thunder, who aren’t yet ready to be buyers and don’t have many veterans worth selling, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (subscription required).

Fischer’s Latest: Westbrook, Jazz, Nurkic, Burks, Reid, Centers

The Lakers have talked recently to both the Hornets and Jazz about trades involving Russell Westbrook‘s expiring $47.1MM contract, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Sources around the NBA inform Fischer that the Heat are not interested in trading incumbent starting point guard Kyle Lowry in a deal for Westbrook (and presumably future draft equity). Fischer notes that opposing clubs generally are hoping for both of L.A.’s two movable future first-round draft picks, in 2027 and 2029, in any Westbrook deal, a price the Lakers are hesitant to pay.

According to Fischer, point guard Mike Conley, swingman Malik Beasley and big man Jarred Vanderbilt would be a part of any trade for Westbrook if the Jazz and Lakers are able to reach a deal, but Utah is discussing all of those players with other teams as well.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Jazz have talked at least to the Hawks, Trail Blazers, and Knicks about trades centered around both Vanderbilt and Beasley as a package deal. Sources inform Fischer that Utah shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has also been floated in some of these conversations.
  • Fischer reports that injured Trail Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic can be had on the trade market, though his pricey long-term contract has cooled rival teams’ interest.
  • Sources tell Fischer that the Pistons has interest in potentially signing reserve guard Alec Burks to an extension this offseason, as the team did in the fall with veteran forward Bogdan Bogdanovic. Detroit has expressed reluctance to trade either player at the deadline, Fischer adds.
  • Timberwolves reserve center Naz Reid has rejected potential contract extensions, making him a possible trade candidate, per Fischer. Reid is hoping to earn something in the neighborhood of $10MM per year, Fischer says, a price Minnesota may be reluctant to pay after having already invested heavily in its starting frontcourt of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • Fischer adds that other reserve centers could very well be on the move, as his sources indicate that the Sixers, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Nets, Celtics, Raptors and Kings are all looking to improve that position.

Jusuf Nurkic Out Until After All-Star Break

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who exited Wednesday’s game early in the first quarter after aggravating a left calf injury, has been diagnosed with a calf strain and ruled out for at least the next seven games. The team announced today in a press release that Nurkic is expected to return after the All-Star break.

After re-signing with Portland during the offseason on a new four-year, $70MM deal, Nurkic has averaged 13.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per night with a .524/.390/.686 shooting line in 45 games (27.3 MPG).

While Nurkic’s stats are solid and the Blazers have a positive net rating with him on the court, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer argued earlier this week that the veteran center has been a weak link for the team this season due to his inconsistent effort, as well as his lack of quickness and verticality on defense.

With Nurkic sidelined for the last two weeks before the All-Star break, the Blazers will get a chance to assess what they look like without him. Reserve center Drew Eubanks is a good bet to slide into the starting lineup, while Trendon Watford will likely see a bump in minutes backing up Eubanks at the five.

In more positive Blazers injury news, the club has announced (via Twitter) that Jerami Grant, who left Wednesday’s game early due to concussion symptoms, has been upgraded to available for Friday’s game in Washington.

Blazers’ Grant, Nurkic Exit Wednesday’s Game With Injuries

The Trail Blazers had two starters go down with injuries on Wednesday night against Memphis. Center Jusuf Nurkic, who was probable entering the game with left calf soreness, aggravated the injury after just two minutes of action and was ruled out for the remainder of the contest, Portland announced (via Twitter).

Forward Jerami Grant was also ruled out after 20 minutes of playing time after having concussion-like symptoms, per the team (Twitter link). If Grant did indeed suffer a concussion, he will have to clear the NBA’s protocol before returning to the court.

Despite being down both players, the Blazers came away with a much-needed 122-112 victory, snapping an eight-game home winning streak for the Grizzlies. Memphis has now lost six of seven after winning 11 straight, notes Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link).

Backup center Drew Eubanks had a strong performance in place of Nurkic, recording 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 23 minutes. If Nurkic is sidelined for additional time, Eubanks will continue to receive an uptick in minutes.

As for Grant’s replacement, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups elected to go small, with Gary Payton II receiving a season-high 29 minutes. Trendon Watford and Nassir Little are also candidates for more playing time.

The Blazers are now 25-26 through 51 games.