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#pounditTuesday, August 16, 2022

Jusuf Nurkic speaks out on losing starting job to Nikola Jokic in Denver

Jusuf Nurkic

Less than two months after being traded by the Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is opening up about the end of his Denver days.

In an interview with NBA.com’s David Aldridge that ran on Monday, Nurkic spoke on a variety of topics, including losing his starting job to Nikola Jokic.

“Like I say, I’m totally fine,” said Nurkic. “The coach have decision, and the organization, who they want to be their guy. But it would be more fair (if) they say that when I start the season. I was asking them, ‘What are we going to do?,’ and they say we’re gonna play both. But I kind of learn in America, especially in this league, it changes overnight. So I have no issue with that.

“I know my time is going to come, especially if you work hard every time, it’s going to pay off,” continued the 22-year-old big man. “I believe in that, and I just keep waiting for my chance, and when chance comes, I’m supposed to be ready. And I’m really happy I come in a right place. I think I’m a perfect fit here [in Portland], and how it show right now, how it looks.”

The Nuggets did indeed experiment with a Jokic-Nurkic pairing at the start of the season before quickly realizing that the slow-footed duo was unplayable together, particularly on the defensive end. Denver ultimately chose Jokic as their guy, leaving a clearly frustrated Nurkic fighting for scraps and all but demanding a trade. He got his wish at the deadline when he was sent to Portland along with a first-rounder for Mason Plumlee and a second-rounder.

It’s difficult to fault the Nuggets for their decision, as Jokic has gone on to average an eye-popping 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game post-All-Star break. But Nurkic may have gotten the last laugh, as his 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game since being traded have Portland playoff-bound (ironically, getting the eighth seed in the West over none other than Denver), something that he has been quite happy to remind his old team of.

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