The shortcomings of the Portland Trailblazers in recent years have been largely pinned on the backcourt pairing of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. However, center Jusuf Nurkic thinks trying to split them up would be the worst thing Portland can do.
Both Lillard and McCollum have taken plenty of flak for their lackluster postseason performances. According to James Herbert of CBS Sports, Nurkic feels fans should still be more appreciative of what they bring to the table:
“Look, what do you get when you split up Dame and CJ? You get a lottery team, 20 wins probably in a year. That's not the goal. For a small-market team, I think that Portland is not appreciating what Dame really is. You're not going to get anytime some player like Dame here. Everybody knows that. The way he treats the city, the way he treats the people, the way he treats the guys around him. Even a person he just met, any day, he treats every person the same. That's what's amazing for me to see. Like, the way he's handled the situation, the media and everything, just overall a really pro guy. What can you ask from him? He's really a leader. He's giving you 30 a night, basically, first-team All-NBA, All-Star every year — should be. It's just difficult to ask him to do more by himself. When you look at his position, you can point to a lot of guys when they didn't have a superstar, another All-Star, whatever. What did they do? Nothing. They accomplished nothing. But he always pushed somebody else. He always tried to find somebody to make better.”
There is certainly plenty of truth to Nurkic's comments. Lillard has long been one of the NBA's premier point guards. He finally solidified that notion by being earning first-team All-NBA honors last season en route to securing his status as perhaps the most clutch player in the regular season.
Meanwhile, CJ McCollum has proven to be quite the complementary option to Lillard as a bonafide scorer. The two were finally able to put together a stellar season after securing the third seed in the powerhouse Western Conference. Unfortunately, their results in the playoffs were largely the same after being swept in the first round for the second consecutive year.
As a result, there has been plenty of speculation regarding some potential changes in Portland. However, it is clear that Jusuf Nurkic is doing what he can to downplay all the talk. There is no question that Damian Lillard is well-aware of all the doubt about him among his fan base. It could only be a matter of time before they are forced to eat crow.