Well. Shit has once again gone awry for the Portland Trail Blazers when it comes to the injury department. We're used to it. We've come to expect that we aren't allowed to have good things. We are Rip City. And in the echo of Wesley Matthews, it came in the stretch run of a regular season where the Blazers seemed primed to make a deep run in the post season despite all preseason predictions to the contrary. Jusuf Nurkic, who was having one of the best statistical games of his entire NBA career, and best season nonetheless as a pro as a whole, came down awkwardly on his left leg and suffered a heinous leg injury that simultaneously crippled Portland’s chances for a deep run in the post season and the hopes of Blazers faithful. Our second best player, and the best friend of our leader, lie on the floor with the tears of 650,000 in his eyes
Of course, real Blazer fans wouldn’t feel at home without one or more of their star players being out with some sort of injury plaguing them. So as a fan, this seems about right to me. Bowie, Walton, Oden, Roy, Matthews. We've seen it before and we will probably see it again. But we will never be numb to the observation because as members of Rip City, we Rise Together....which means we fall together.
What really sucks about Nurkic’s injury is thinking about how successful this particular roster would have been if everyone was healthy. Especially considering the fact that we pretty much lucked out with the Kanter and Hood signings. This was a year that our previously laughable bench was actually something to be feared. Curry is a marksman from 3 when left open, Turner had finally found his rightful place on the play sheet in the second unit, and minor trade acquisitions provided depth at fragile places. No longer was Stotts trying to find a solid 10 man rotation, he was trying to figure out how the hell to cut it down to only 10.
That being said, Kanter is not as defensively capable as Nurkic and it is apparent that multiple players need to step up and assist with Lillard’s efforts to carry the team on his back. This is a moment that players such as Collins could only dream of. This is a time that Leonard can show he isn't the "whipping boy" that he has been made out to be. This is their time to shine. And as good as Kanter has been for the Blazers of late, he hasn’t been able to really do what Nurkic can do in the pick and roll with Lillard (who can?). His quick offense and lack of court vision will lead to more turnovers than assists. That's where the rest of the team will need to shoulder the burden, and where our leader needs to do what he has always done. But better.
The injury to Nurkic poses the question of how will Damian Lillard be affected moving forward. Even though Lillard will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and proceed to do some Lillard-type shit, he should not be forced to carry such a heavy burden by himself. But he will, because that's what he does. The more weight he is asked to carry, the higher he seems to be able to lift his arms.
It has been cool and all to see what the Blazers have been able to achieve without two of their three strongest players, but let’s all hope that CJ can come back and consistently put some points on the board. Because if the Blazers are able to overcome the odds once again, Lillard is going to need somebody to help take some of the weight off his shoulders if he is going to have any strength left to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy some day.
BlazerTag Podcast Crew
What is BlazerTag
A group of life long blazer fans that are dedicated to sharing our authentic thoughts about the team. This unfiltered group is all about sharing the highs and lows of being a Blazer fan. We commit to one podcast a week where we encourage our fans to drink along with us and join the fun!