Instead of making the trip to Chicago with his teammates, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic has spent his week in a hospital bed after suffering a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula on Monday.
However, Nurkic made an appearance in the team locker room via FaceTime before the Blazers took the court against the Bulls.
Portland went on to beat Chicago 118-98, and Nurkic’s impact from afar wasn’t lost on his team.
“Just to see his face and just to hear his voice gave us so much positive motivation,” Enes Kanter told reporters. “It meant a lot to us.”
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 28, 2019
Before the game, Kanter told The Oregonian he and other players “couldn’t really sleep” Monday night after Nurkic’s gruesome injury. Wednesday’s virtual interaction, however, brought some sense of peace to the team, even if the 24-year-old Nurkic wasn’t quite himself.
“It was tough to see him down like that,” Damian Lillard said. “Nurk is an upbeat-type dude. He’s always joking and is always in a good mood. But he was hurting. It hurt me to see him like that. I just let him know I was praying for him, thinking about him and that it was going to be all right. I told him, ‘You’re going to come back. Just don’t put any extra stress on yourself. What’s done is done. The happier you are, the better spirits you’re in, you heal better.’ I really believe that.”
Zach Collins added: “It was so cool. That was kind of a surprise for us. He was able to hear us, he was wearing a Rip City shirt and he got in the huddle with us, too, on FaceTime. So it was really special. … It was cool to see him in good spirits, especially after what happened. It was only two days ago. I think he was pretty heavily medicated. But we got a smile out of him and a laugh, so it was good.”
Wednesday’s win kept Portland (47-27) in third place in the Western Conference at a half-game ahead of Houston. The Blazers have eight games left on their schedule.