If Paul Allen’s death at the beginning of the 2018-19 season wasn’t traumatic and disheartening enough. If CJ McCollum’s worrisome knee injury wasn’t unnerving enough. The gruesome sight of Jusuf Nurkic’s leg folding like a lawn chair, late in the 2nd overtime of Monday’s game against the Nets, was a devastating blow to say the least. A compound fracture to his leg and to a season, already wrought with setbacks and sorrow.
The Blazers ended up beating Brooklyn 148 -144 and locked in their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, but the win was hollow. The cost far too great. It was a gut punch for the ages. Nurkic down and out for this season and perhaps the next.
It cued haunting notions for Blazer fans. Had the curse returned or was it just a bad fall. Just terrible happenstance. But, why oh why basketball Gods does the Blazer franchise seem to suffer at the hands of such an inordinate amount of bad luck?
Should Blazer fans, awaking to realize it wasn’t just some bad dream, run down the streets in some chaotic harmonic fashion, arms waving wildly, screaming “the curse lives” at the top of their lungs. Should they give into it? Be used to it by now?
It’s palpable. It’s an inveterate force. It feels at times like some dark entity that returns habitually to inflict misery. It’s relentless. It’s merciless. It came for Walton, Bowie, and Oden. It took Brandon Roy. Perhaps Monday it came back for Jusuf Nurkic. But, those were cases of inborn bad knees, legs, and feet. Surely, Nurkic, nicknamed “The Beast” by Portland fans, an epitome of strength, is not host to such fragility.
With 2:22 left in 2nd overtime of a intensely physical game, Jusuf Nurkic came down from a rebound attempt, landing awkwardly on Nets forward Jared Dudley’s foot, his leg buckling under the full weight of his 280 pound frame.
This just moments after it appeared Lillard had injured his knee in a collision with Nets forward DeMarre Carroll. Just enough time elapsed for fans to issue a sigh of relief before tragedy struck.
If it wasn’t enough that Jusuf Nurkic lay there writhing in pain, his leg strewn at an awkward angle, teammates and fans gathered in a collected exhale of hope, referee Tyler Ford moved towards Portland’s center, kicking Nurkic in the foot, below his snapped leg before walking away showing no concern. That kick, accident or not, summed up the misfortune of a season and a franchise. The Blazers kicked while they are down.
That said, Portland was never a team to stay down. Adversity is their middle name. Really…Portland Adversity Trail Blazers. I don’t expect the Blazers to lower their heads and give up. They won’t feel sorry for themselves. They will fight. It’s their nature to do so. Kanter and Collins will step up. McCollum will return. The Blazers will do their best to finish the season and will enter the playoffs ready to compete despite their hardships. They will do it for Paul Allen, for Jusuf Nurkic. Then there will be next season. It will be what it will be. There will be hope and there will be resilience. You could see it in the players who stood by their teammate delivering words of support. You could hear it in the voices of a sold out Moda Center chanting “Jusuf Nurkic.”
It still feels unreal. Like a Marvel movie ending on a cliffhanger, the good guys down, the future in a haze of uncertainty. It all fades to dark, viewers left in a flabbergasting confusion. Then….those words of hope flash across the screen…The Beast will return.