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Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic could have returned February if not for calf strain, per Terry Stotts

Blazers, Terry Stots, Jusuf Nurkic

Portland Trail Blazers fans have been waiting patiently for quite some time for injured center Jusuf Nurkic to be back to 100 percent.

The 25-year-old slotman is expected to finally make his 2019-20 NBA regular season debut on March 15. But according to Blazers head coach Terry Stots, Nurkic could have been back playing as early as February if not for calf strain that set him back another few weeks.

Jusuf Nurkic last played in March 2019 after suffering a gruesome season-ending leg injury against the Brooklyn Nets. The seven-foot giant had to be stretched off the floor after his left leg snapped to the bone following an attempted tip-in.

The Blazers’ struggles, meanwhile, have been heavily documented this season. Having the Bosnian Beast back would have certainly improved their chances and could have helped them win more games last month. He notched career-highs of 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, to go along with 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks in 72 games last season.

Without Nurkic patrolling the paint, the Blazers had to rely on offseason acquisition Hassan Whiteside to man the middle. Whiteside has given the team elite rim-protection, but the team is still direly missing Nurk’s proficiency to make plays on the low block.

Zach Collins also went down early in the season after dislocating his shoulder.

Portland is currently figuring in a heated battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are currently sitting at ninth place with a 28-35 record. The Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Pelicans are still all in contention for that final playoff spot in the West.