The Trail Blazers – 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies and with the Kings, Spurs and Pelicans lurking – have a narrow path to the playoffs.
Enter a wide man – Jusuf Nurkic.
Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who has been sidelined for almost a year after a devastating leg injury, told Yahoo Sports he will make his season debut March 15 against the Houston Rockets.
This will be nearly a year after Nurkic got hurt.
Hassan Whiteside has been fine as a stop-gap starting center in Nurkic’s absence. Portland will have to determine which of those two will start and finish and how much playing time each will get. Nurkic’s conditioning after a long layoff will obviously factor.
The Trail Blazers have been a wreck at backup center all season. Whoever comes off the bench, Nurkic or Whiteside will provide a big upgrade in that role.
Portland has a superstar in Damian Lillard. Nurkic is returning. Zach Collins could get healthy. The Trail Blazers could be more dangerous in the playoffs than the typical No. 8 seed with a mediocre record.
If they get in.