Nurkic arrives in Portland following trade
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Jusuf Nurkic is in Portland and ready to get to work.
The Trail Blazers acquired the big man known as the ”Bosnian Beast” on Sunday in exchange for center Mason Plumlee. Portland also received a first-round draft pick in the deal.
Asked after arriving Monday if he thinks he’ll fit in with his new team, Nurkic said: ”Definitely. It takes time, but I’m ready to work. I want to win and I want to help this team win.”
At the start of the season, Denver looked to incorporate both Nikola Jokic and Nurkic into a big starting lineup. But 22-year-old Nurkic averaged fewer than 18 minutes with eight points per game.
Nurkic didn’t take up basketball until he was 14 and showed glimpses of his talent this season. He scored a career-high 23 points at New Orleans on Oct. 26 and grabbed a career-best 18 rebounds at Toronto five days later.
”He’s a good young player. I think he had some good moments in Denver, and obviously got out of the rotation. But he’s got good hands, he’s a very good rebounder. He is a skill player and he’s only 22, with a lot of room to improve,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said before Portland’s game against the Atlanta on Monday night. ”So I’m looking forward to getting him acclimated with our system and how we play.”
Nurkic said he was fine with starting or coming off the bench, whatever his new coach decides.
”I think it’s the perfect place for me,” he said about his new team. ”They need me and I need them.”
Nurkic was taken with the 16th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2014 but was immediately sent to Denver in a draft-night deal. He was hampered last season by a knee injury.
The 26-year-old Plumlee figures to be the perfect backup for Jokic. Plumlee averaged 11.1 points and four assists this season for Portland.
The former Duke standout was a first-round pick by Brooklyn in 2013 before being dealt to Portland two years later.
”He was extremely well-liked by everybody, both on the court and off the court, in the locker room,” Stotts said about Plumlee. ”He’s a really good person, he was about the right things. He played to win. I think everyone saw how hard he played.”
Stotts said he hoped Nurkic would be available for Wednesday night’s game at the Utah Jazz. Meyers Leonard started for the Blazers on Monday night against the Hawks.
Nurkic said he was excited about settling into his new home – even the rain.
”I’ve heard a lot about the food. And it’s a small town, which is good for me. I’m excited to learn about the city,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.