Trail Blazers Rumors

Jusuf Nurkic To Undergo Wrist Surgery, Miss At Least Eight Weeks

After suffering a right wrist fracture on Thursday night, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will undergo surgery and will be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The injury happened during the third quarter of Thursday’s game vs. the Pacers, apparently occurring when Nurkic swiped at the ball as Malcolm Brogdon drove to the basket. It’s the second major injury in the last two years for the 26-year-old, who missed most of last season due to a significant leg fracture.

The timeline reported by Charania would result in Nurkic missing the rest of the first half of the 2020/21 season, which ends on March 4 — the second half begins on March 11, eight weeks from yesterday. The Trail Blazers have 25 games on their schedule between now and then, so their starting center would miss over a third of the season, assuming all those games can be played without postponements.

Nurkic’s absence will also cost him a $1.25MM bonus, as we outlined earlier today. In order to earn that bonus, he needed to appear in at least 62 games, which won’t happen.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, Portland figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.

Blazers Notes: Nurkic, Roster, Luxury Tax

A fractured right wrist may prevent Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic from earning a $1.25MM bonus this season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter). Nurkic would earn that bonus if he plays in at least 62 games and Portland wins at least 44 games. Those thresholds are prorated downward from 70 and 50, respectively, to account for the 72-game season.

As we noted last night in our story on Nurkic’s injury, the Blazers do have an open spot on their 15-man roster and an open two-way contract slot, so they have options if they want to add depth up front with Nurkic and Zach Collins (ankle) both sidelined.

Portland is currently $1.87MM below the luxury tax line, according to Marks. Since two-way signings don’t count toward the tax and there’s no deadline to sign a player to a two-way deal this season, that option could appeal more to the Blazers.

Jusuf Nurkic Fractures Right Wrist

The Trail Blazers announced during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Pacers that Jusuf Nurkic will not return to the court, having suffered a right wrist fracture (Twitter link).

While it’s not 100% clear how the injury occurred, Nurkic appeared to come up holding his wrist after a defensive possession in which he swiped at the ball with his right hand, blocked a Myles Turner shot attempt, and then fell to the floor (video link via NBC Sports Northwest).

The Blazers haven’t offered much info yet on the severity of Nurkic’s injury, how it’ll be treated, or how much time he might miss. However, it seems safe to assume that he’ll be sidelined for the foreseeable future, whether or not he requires surgery on his wrist.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Portland’s 26-year-old starting center, who missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury. This season, Nurkic had been averaging 10.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 11 games (23.6 MPG) entering Thursday’s action.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, the team figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.

Damian Lillard Has Advocated For Blazers To Acquire Draymond Green

CJ McCollum Off To Hot Start

  • Before he signed with the Nuggets as a free agent in November, Isaiah Hartenstein drew interest from the Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Pelicans, and Wizards, league sources tell Singer in a separate Denver Post story.
  • Typically a slow starter, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been excellent so far in 2020/21, having averaged 28.0 PPG with a .431 3PT% in six games. Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at what has fueled the hot start for McCollum, who said he’s motivated by wanting to secure a postseason berth without having to take part in the play-in tournament again.

Nassir Little Details Intense Coronavirus Experience

  • 20-year-old Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little suffered through an intense 22 days with COVID-19, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details. He lost 20 pounds, experienced grinding headaches, and lost his senses of smell and taste. “For me, I was on the worst part of the spectrum, the hard end of the disease,” Little said. “It hit me really bad. For about seven to 10 days, I was just really miserable.”

And-Ones: Giannis, Lillard, 2021 FAs, 2022 Draft

During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).

The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.

Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.

“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”

In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.

Latest On James Harden

In his latest look at the James Harden situation, Brian Windhorst of ESPN lists the Sixers, Nets, Heat, Celtics, and Raptors among the teams that have at least placed “courtesy calls” to the Rockets about the former MVP.

And while the Bucks reportedly don’t have interest in pursuing Harden, they did have an internal conversation about the possibility and ran it by Giannis Antetokounmpo before coming to that decision, Windhorst notes.

The Harden trade talk that dominated NBA headlines during the preseason has died down to some extent now that the season is underway and the 31-year-old is suiting up for the Rockets, but Windhorst believes it’s just a matter of time before a team convinces itself that Harden is the missing piece for a championship and pulls the trigger on a deal, like Toronto did for Kawhi Leonard in 2018.

Here’s more on Harden:

  • Although the Nuggets have been linked to Harden directly, they’re also interested in potentially getting involved in a multi-team trade involving the star guard even if they don’t end up with him, according to Windhorst.
  • Sam Amick of The Athletic wonders if the loss of scoring depth caused by Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL injury may motivate the Nets to push harder to acquire Harden. Of course, as we discussed earlier this week, Dinwiddie’s injury also diminishes the value of a player who likely would be part of any package the Nets offer.
  • Within that same Athletic article, Amick examines where things stand for the other teams linked to Harden, writing that the Sixers remain content to continue evaluating their current roster under Doc Rivers before making any major changes, while the Bucks don’t view Harden as a fit for their culture. Amick also evaluates the Heat, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Raptors, but doesn’t suggest that there’s traction on any front.

Health Updates: Leonard, Trent, Okoro, Claxton, Gallinari

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will return to the lineup tonight, five days after being struck in the face by an accidental elbow from teammate Serge Ibaka, tweets Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Coach Tyronn Lue made the announcement in a pre-game session with the media.

Leonard missed two games with the injury, which caused him to bleed profusely from his mouth and required eight stitches. L.A. split the games, defeating the Timberwolves Tuesday night and losing by 51 points to the Mavericks on Sunday.

A second-team All-NBA selection last season, Leonard is off to another strong start, averaging 23.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals in his first two games.

There’s more injury-related news to pass along:

  • The Trail Blazers will face the Clippers tonight without guard Gary Trent Jr., Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters (Twitter link from Vardon). Trent suffered a strained calf in Monday’s game with the Lakers.
  • Rookie swingman Isaac Okoro didn’t travel with the Cavaliers as they start a six-game road trip, according to Chris Fedor of The fifth pick in this year’s draft suffered a sprained left foot in Saturday’s game and was recently placed into the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. The league announced today that there have been no new positive tests since December 24, so Fedor believes Okoro likely came in contact with someone who tested positive, which limits his ability to travel. The Cavs hope he can join them before the trip ends January 9.
  • Nets coach Steve Nash said Nicolas Claxton is “steadily improving,” but remains “weeks away” from playing, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. The second-year center is dealing with tendinopathy in his right knee and hasn’t played yet this season.
  • Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari had to leave tonight’s game with a sprained ankle, according to Andrews (Twitter link). It was his first game since suffering a contusion in his left foot in last week’s season opener.

Zach Collins Out Indefinitely Following Second Ankle Surgery

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins underwent revision surgery today to repair a left medial malleolus stress fracture, the team announced today in a press release. A specific timeline for his return hasn’t been set, with the team indicating he’ll be out indefinitely.

It’s the second procedure Collins has undergone on his left ankle, which he injured during the NBA’s summer restart. He first had surgery on that ankle on September 1.

It’s a tough setback for Collins, who had hoped to return to action at some point in January. Since entering Portland’s starting lineup on a full-time basis at the start of the ’19/20 season, the 23-year-old has only been able to play in 11 games, having missed most of last year due to shoulder surgery.

In 154 career regular season games (17.5 MPG), Collins has averaged 5.7 PPG and 4.0 RPG on .444/.324/.722 shooting.

Collins was eligible for a rookie scale extension prior to the start of this season, but he and the Trail Blazers opted to table contract negotiations until the summer of 2021. The thinking was that Collins would get a chance to prove his value after a lost 2019/20 campaign. Now it’s no longer clear exactly if or when he’ll get that opportunity.