Basketball

Billups Wants More From Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Portland Trail Blazers may have had a shot in the 2019 NBA Western Conference Finals had it not been for Jusuf Nurkic breaking his leg right before the playoffs. Nurkic was an important piece to the Blazers roster that season, and it looks like new head coach Chauncey Billups and his staff will expect more from the big man than what the Blazers saw last season.

Jason Quick of The Athletic recently interviewed both Jusuf Nurkic and Chauncey Billups.

“It’s not a question anymore whether I want to be here or not,” Nurkic said. “When the team hired Chauncey and I have a conversation with him and (assistant) Roy Rogers, there was no doubt. I’m 100 percent committed to Blazers.”

“To be honest with you, this is probably the best thing — other than Dame (Lillard) — to happen to me in my life,” Nurkic said.

Billups is looking forward to coaching Nurkic.

“I’m excited to coach Nurk, I am,” Billups said. “This dude is uber-talented, man. I said what I said (in the press conference), and I do believe we are going to get the best version of him this year.”

“I’ve been on him about things I need from him,” Billups said. “I said, ‘Nurk, I know you are going to be a free agent, and I understand you have to have a great year. You need me for you to have a great year, and I need you for us to have a good year. We need each other, right?’

“I’m going to give him every opportunity to have a great year. Because if he has a great year, that means we are a pretty damn good team. Because he is a good player. But that means he has to be focused and be in shape. Because you are only going to play as many minutes as you are physically able. If you are out there tired, uh-uh, come on, gotta get you out. There are good players behind you.”

Jusuf Nurkic was dealing with some personal things last year, those are gone.

“I don’t think it was so much my shape; it was mentally. I was going through a lot,” Nurkic said. “People might not see, but I was going through a lot emotionally and family-wise, like everyone else. Sometimes when you go through a lot, people take it different ways.”

“To be honest, this is the first time I’m in control of my own destiny,” Nurkic said. “I love it. I actually love that I’m in a contract year. As you know, players in their contract year probably play their best basketball, period. So I’m excited. But even me being in a contract year hasn’t gotten me as fired up for basketball as much as Chauncey has. When he came, and the stuff he said, and the stuff he is trying to do here … I am beyond happy.”

In the article, Jusuf Nurkic also mentioned that he is ready to get back and help lead the Blazer’s defense. With less than a month until training camp begins the Blazers are already starting to bond. We will see in the next few weeks if Nurkic has improved.

So What Can We Expect From Nurkic?

Before his injury, Jusuf Nurkic was looking like he was on pace to be one of the top centers in the league for years to come. With more touches, we can expect more scoring and assists from Nurkic. But, on the defensive side, we should be able to expect more steals, blocks, and better on and off-ball defense from Jusuf Nurkic with better defenders around him.

Whether Jusuf Nurkic returns to his form before his injury or not, fans can expect more from the Blazers big man in the upcoming season.

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