PORTLAND, Ore. — Jusuf Nurkic has been giving his social media audience an inside look at his rehabilitation from a leg injury all summer, posting numerous videos and photos of his workouts to Twitter and Instagram.
If the posts on social media are an indication, Nurkic, who is listed at 280 pounds, has been working hard and slimming down. Blazers star guard Damian Lillard said he worked out with Nurkic for a week this offseason and offered his observations.
"I worked out with him for a whole week. He looked good. He looked real slim. He moved well,” Lillard said. “We actually had a few days where he did all the guard stuff with me, and then I did all the post stuff with him.
"He was in pretty good shape. I just noticed he was really slim, and he was dunking the ball easy. Spin move, dunks. Drop step, dunks. He looked real good. He was keeping up," he said.
Portland's starting center suffered a non-displaced fibular fracture in his right leg on March 28 and is working to be ready in time for the 2017-18 season. Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said Nurkic will be fully cleared by the time training camp begins in September.
"It's going to take some time for him to get back into contact," Olshey said in June. "He's in the [practice facility] every day. He's working out. Everything is just controlled right now."
Nurkic's offseason work ethic is not a new development. During the 2016 offseason, when he was still playing for the Denver Nuggets, Nurkic made headlines for his offseason workouts, which resulted in him losing about 35 pounds.
At the time, he credited his own work ethic and Denver's head strength coach Steve Hess.
"I want to be healthy," he told Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. "So I want to do whatever I can do [to] be that. And I am. 35 pounds less, being [in] shape."
It appears Hess’ role has been replaced this offseason by Blazers' sports performance specialist Todd Forcier, who has been featured in many of the workout photos and videos Nurkic has posted on social media.
Last offseason, Nurkic was coming off a sophomore campaign in which he missed the first 33 games with a knee injury and struggled with his conditioning. He spent the offseason getting into shape.
The hard work paid off last season in Denver, at least initially. In seven preseason games, Nurkic averaged 12.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game.
The Nuggets started him alongside Nikola Jokic to begin the season and he had a strong start, averaging 15.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while averaging about 27 minutes over the first five games of the season.
The next game, he played only 13 minutes, beginning a stretch where he averaged about 17 minutes per game. As the season wore on, Denver moved him out of the starting lineup and eventually out of the rotation.
By the time he was traded to Portland on Feb. 1, Nurkic was barely playing, averaging about 9 minutes per game over his final 15 games in Denver. He didn't like the demotion, was vocal about it and arrived in Portland in poor physical condition.
“Nurk … was incredibly deconditioned when we got him,” Olshey said. “The shape we got Nurk in is not where he would have been had he been with us the entire time.”
Despite being out of shape, Nurkic played well and played a lot (29 minutes per game) during his 20 games in Portland. He averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals.
Jared Cowley is a digital producer. Click here to follow him on Twitter.
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