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Jusuf Nurkic on return with Blazers: 'We're here to make the playoffs'

The Bosnian Beast is set to make his official return Friday when Portland plays Memphis. Nurkic hasn't played since he broke his leg 16 months ago.
Credit: AP
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, left, and Jusuf Nurkic celebrate following their 109-104 victory against the Utah Jazz in an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jusuf Nurkic is back.

The Portland Trail Blazers center wrapped up his second scrimmage on Sunday recording 17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in a loss to the Toronto Raptors.  

The intensity picked up in the second quarter of the scrimmage. Nurkic and Toronto's Serge Ibaka got tangled up and had to be separated.

"I think he's a great guy. I thought he had his elbow under my elbow for no reason. I didn't like it and I let him know. I don't necessarily think it was a bad thing," said Nurkic. 

"We are a different team. We ain't here to mess around and back off. We're here to make the playoffs. When we play with an edge we are a pretty good damn team," he said.

The Blazers lost scrimmages against Indiana and Toronto as they prepare for the NBA season to resume in Florida. They have one more tuneup against Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

"It's a bad look when you lose, but we're not playing starters full minutes. It's not like we have Dame out there with us. I'm not even trying to make excuses. I'm not really worried about scrimmages," said Nurkic. "All I care about is Memphis. That's my only focus. I think that's the most important game for us for the year."

Portland is 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed and the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Blazers open the resumed season against Memphis July 31.

"We're pretty much focused on Memphis from yesterday on. That's our main focus. Player-wise, coaching-wise, I think everyone is focused on that game," Nurkic said.

The Toronto scrimmage on Sunday was the first time Nurkic and fellow center Hassan Whiteside played together against another team, moving Nurkic to the power forward position.

"I thought I was playing well, as far as moving and defense. It's kind of a little bit different out there on the floor. I'm so used to being in the paint for me it's just a little adjustment," said Nurkic. "I think it's really helpful to have a scrimmage like that so you can be out there and figure it out in a game instead of just practice. It's better spacing, maybe not game space in a real game, but definitely better than practice. I feel great. I feel confident guarding anyone out there. I took the challenge right away."

Friday's opener against Memphis will be Nurkic's first game since his gruesome leg injury in March 2019. He's ready to go and confident his team can make push towards the playoffs.

"I've been here for three years and people know what I bring to the table," said Nurkic. "There's one man, Damian Lillard. I don't care which team you are, if you have Dame, you have a chance. It's as simple as that."

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