Portland Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic will be sidelined for at least a month due to plantar fasciitis, the team announced on Wednesday. Nurkic has been playing through the injury since September, and will be reevaluated at the end of this initial timeline.
Nurkic was playing well heading into the All-Star break, averaging 21.5 points, 14 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 59.3 percent shooting as he led the Blazers to a four-game winning streak. Plantar fasciitis is extremely painful to play through, and perhaps it had become too much for Nurkic to deal with. But given his recent play it's fair to wonder if the team shut him down with an eye on securing a better draft position.
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That mini run pushed the Blazers up into 10th place in the Western Conference, which would earn them a trip to the play-in tournament as things stand. That's clearly not what the Blazers' front office wants to happen this season. Not after shutting Damian Lillard down with an abdominal injury and trading CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington.
At this point, the apparent plan is to tank for a high lottery pick and reset for a new future around a healthy Lillard. Nurkic and Anfernee Simons dragging the team to a play-in appearance, or an even more meaningless 11th-place finish, would not help them in the present or future, so you can understand the thinking here.
With just under seven weeks left in the regular season, there's a chance Nurkic won't play again this season -- especially if the Blazers are still trying to drop down the standings. And if that's the case, we may have seen the last of him in a Blazers uniform. Nurkic is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and it's unclear if the Blazers will bring him back or go in a different direction as they reshape the roster.