The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t make a lot of changes this offseason to really boost their title chances with Damian Lillard, but new head coach Chauncey Billups remains confident about their odds. After all, they have a slew of players like Jusuf Nurkic whom Billups believes can elevate their games.
As Jason Quick of The Athletic reported, Billups emphasized his plan to unleash the best version of the Bosnian Beast as they try to compete for the title in 2021-22. He also shared how he will give Nurkic all the opportunities he needs to take his game to another level and help the Blazers compete with the other powerhouses in the Western Conference.
“I’m excited to coach Nurk, I really am,” Billups shared. “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. 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 had an up-and-down year in 2020-21, and it certainly didn’t help that he suffered from various on and off-court issues before and during the campaign–his grandmother died before the season started, arrived late for the Blazers’ training camp, and even injured his wrist that cost him 32 straight contests early on.
For what it’s worth, Nurkic himself seemed to be all-in on Chauncey Billups’ plans for him. He said so as much in the same report from The Athletic. The 27-year-old Blazers big man even claimed having Billups as his coach and knowing his plans for him is the best thing that happened to him–after Damian Lillard of course!
“It’s not a question anymore whether I want to be here or not. 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,” Nurkic added.
It remains to be seen how Billups and the Blazers will use Nurkic, but given what they just said, Portland fans have every reason to be excited about the upcoming season.