Blazers' Nurkic feels 'blessed' to be back on court
Abbie Parr / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic has resumed full-contact practices over a year after suffering a left tibia and fibula compound fracture late in the 2018-19 season.

The 7-foot Bosnia native was enjoying a breakout campaign before his injury, and he's relieved to be back on the court.

"It's been blessed," Nurkic said Sunday, according to team writer Casey Holdahl. "It's 14 months play the first practice with the team, with the full squad, pretty much. Just that joy and excitement and passing, I feel like just learn the basketball is something I really missing."

Nurkic has been the Blazers' starting center since being acquired from the Denver Nuggets in February 2017. The 25-year-old was averaging career highs in points (15.6 per game), rebounds (10.4), and assists (3.2) prior to being sidelined.

With Nurkic out, Portland acquired center Hassan Whiteside last offseason. The ex-Miami Heat big man has been solid throughout Nurkic's absence, recording 16.3 points, 14.2 boards, and an NBA-leading 3.1 blocks per contest across 61 appearances in 2019-20.

During the team's first practices in Orlando, head coach Terry Stotts has been experimenting with lineups featuring both players.

"Between those two guys playing together and Melo playing the three alongside two bigs, those are kind of the two biggest changes that we're going to have," Stotts said. "We started the season with Zach (Collins) at four, so that's not much of a change - this is Zach's third year with us. But the biggest changes from a roster standpoint would be those two playing together and Melo at three.

"So I think we'll spend a good amount of time looking at them, or at least giving them a chance to play during these two-and-a-half weeks."

Blazers' Nurkic feels 'blessed' to be back on court
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