PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered compound fractures to the tibia and fibula of his lower left leg in a double-overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night and will be out indefinitely.
Nurkic was jumping for a rebound and came down awkwardly in a tangle of bodies under the basket. After hitting the floor, the Nets players around him saw the severity of the injury and sprinted away.
The arena quickly went into a hush as Blazers medical personnel rushed to Nurkic. A stretcher was immediately called, and with the help of a few Blazers — Damian Lillard, Rodney Hood and Al-Farouq Aminu — the 7-foot Bosnian was loaded onto it.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” Lillard said. “I think he tried to tip it in, he crashed the glass and I saw him hit the ground and roll over real quick, and I thought maybe he got hit in the face or something again. As I was walking over there, I saw everybody else turn around real quick and walk away, and then I looked and saw his leg — and you just hate to see that happen to him.”
Lillard said it reminded him of Paul George‘s injury during the Team USA exhibition in Las Vegas in 2014, a game Lillard also was playing in.
“That’s exactly what it looked like to me,” Lillard said.
It also called back memories of Gordon Hayward‘s gruesome ankle injury that happened opening night of the 2017-18 season.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said Nurkic was taken to a local hospital and didn’t have much else to add.
“It’s devastating,” Stotts said.
Stotts described the Blazers’ locker room as “quiet,” and forward Zach Collins said it was “almost like we lost.” Enes Kanter said the team held a moment of silence for Nurkic following the game.
Enes Kanter details the emotions in Portland’s locker room after Jusuf Nurkic went down with a serious left leg injury.
“Nobody could really say anything,” Kanter said.
It’s a crushing blow to the Blazers, who have been surging recently despite a knee injury to CJ McCollum that has sidelined him the past couple weeks. They went on to beat the Nets in double overtime 148-144, which clinched a playoff berth for the Blazers, their sixth consecutive appearance.
“We weren’t celebrating,” Stotts said.
Nurkic’s injury happened with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the second overtime and the Blazers leading by two points. They went on to close out the Nets, with a big 3-pointer by Hood and some clutch free throws by Seth Curry sealing the win.
“Honestly, I think it’s natural for us, after something like that, you say, ‘All right, we’re going to finish the job and get it done,'” Lillard said of playing on after the injury. “Because first of all, he wouldn’t want us to say, ‘Let’s feel sorry for ourselves and feel sorry for Nurk and not care as much.’
“So, we’re going to finish the job, try to get the game. But I think after the game, that’s when it kicks in. I don’t know what else to say.”
Behind Nurkic, the Blazers have Kanter, who was signed after being waived by the New York Knicks, and Collins.
Nurkic, 24, is averaging 15.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in 71 games this season. He finished Monday with 32 points and 16 rebounds before exiting.
“You hate to see him have to go through something like that, having his best season in the NBA,” Lillard said. “We’re going down a crucial stretch in the season, trying to obviously secure our playoff spot, find our position and then have a postseason, so seeing something like that happen to him … You never want to see that for your friend or teammate, and then especially as a player, you don’t want to see anyone have to go through that.
“And it’s also going to be hard on our team. CJ’s already out, now him having a tough injury, so every way you look at it, it was a blow. It felt like it after the game.”
Earlier this season, the Nets experienced a similar situation with guard Caris LeVert leaving the court in a chair with towels over his leg in what was expected to be a serious leg injury. (LeVert returned this season after being diagnosed with a dislocation in his foot.)
The entire Nets team came over to Nurkic to wish him well as he exited the floor on the stretcher.
“That’s what our guys are talking about in the locker room right now,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Nurkic’s injury. “They’re not talking about the game or the loss. They’re talking about a player was having a great game and a heck of a player, and you just pray that it’s not a long-term thing and he can bounce back. It just takes the wind out of yourself; it’s just not the same. We’ve been through it, so it’s tough — tough for the crowd, tough for everybody.”