Jusuf Nurkić Discusses Workouts, Rehabilitation, Wanting To Return A Better Player And His 'Head Being Good'

by Casey Holdahl
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Saturday afternoon in Phoenix, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkić went through an on-court workout, the first the public has seen since the 7-0 Bosnian suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula in a double overtime victory versus the Nets at the Moda Center on March 25. Afterward, Nurkić spoke with the media regarding the workout and his broader rehabilitation, whether he has a return date in mind, if the are any mental aspects to overcome when returning to the court after suffering a gruesome injury, the play of the team thus far this season, his desire to come back a better player and what he thinks it will be like when he returns to game action. 

(Questions are paraphrased, responses are as close to verbatim as possible.)

Where are you at with your rehabilitation?

Jusuf Nurkić: Right where I want to be.

What are the hurdles you still need to clear?

Jusuf Nurkić: A lot of things man. I'm, free of pain and try to keep that way. I feel like I'm close to 60 percent and keep building day by day. All I can do.

How long have you been going through workouts like the one you went through today?

Jusuf Nurkić: I can't tell you all the things... I don't know, to be honest. I try to, like I said, build day by day and whatever they want from me, I try to do that. So I'm not really focused on getting where I want to be, but of course I want to be somewhere. But I try to listen to my team and doctors and everybody around me to do it the right way. So it's been tremendous and it's difficult right now watching, but I just need to be smart with decisions. I feel pretty good where I am.

Is that the most you've worked out?

Jusuf Nurkić: Like I said, I can't tell you everything, but I did a lot of stuff during my rehab and now it's just build on those stuff. I think one of the stuff you just see, I've been doing for a little while.

The team has been careful not to place timelines on your return, at least publicly. Do you have a goal or a target date for yourself?

Jusuf Nurkić: No, not really. It's not about one game or one season, it's more about life. I want to be healthy when I'm done playing basketball. I feel like I know what I can do and how much I mean for this team, but at the same time, they know I give everything what I got and last year, I feel like I gave the best from me to the team. And now this part, they need to wait on me, whatever that day is.

Fans get excited when they see video of you going through these workouts. What was it like for you to return to these kind of activities?

Jusuf Nurkić: It doesn't matter for me. I believe everything happens for a reason. For me, I know I'm going to be okay with this, but it's a next step. It's the right time to be with the team more and more, it doesn't really matter how you feel after that, how you feel during that, the contact. A lot of checkmarks I need to still get there, but it's amazed me how I feel. What I been through, how everything went down, it's amazing I have no pain, which is tremendous. So I really try to be on top of that so I can maintain that.

Do you think about the injury when you're out there? People talk about that mental hurdle...

Jusuf Nurkić: Nah, they talk about more my hair, now talk about headband. I keep messing with the people and they don't know about that. I think for me, I know I'm going to be okay with the head, I just need to know when I'm 100 percent because I can't pick and choose when I'm going to play. When I'm out there, I give whatever I have for that game, so I play as hard as I can. So I think for me it's more safe to be just 100 percent, whatever that day is. I can't know that.

More the idea that sometimes when you have an injury like that, to get back on the court...

Jusuf Nurkić: I don't care about that. My head is good.

Besides the physical aspect, I imagine this has been a mental journey from the time you broke your leg to here...

Jusuf Nurkić: Like I said in the press conference, I think for me, mentally is going to be okay. I've been through a lot, all the people in the world going through some hard times, but I feel like that's nothing compared to people on the street, compared to people who don't have no money to live and they struggle all day more than I do. So for me, just mentally it's hard to watch my brothers out there playing and I can't be out there with them. And I know how much we didn't show yet how we are. I think we better than we show, but we've got to show that.

Is it especially hard seeing them not play very well know that you could help?

Jusuf Nurkić: Not necessarily... You need to be in the playoff picture, but it's early. I understand people are disappointed. Injuries sucks man, they part of the job, part of the life. I think for me, I need to do whatever best for me and the team. So I think as far as I struggle with how they played, I can't play, but at the same time, they understand what I cam as a person, as a player.

What was the low point?

Jusuf Nurkić: Basically nothing, just go day by day. You can't rely what's going to be tomorrow or end of the week, in a month. Like I said, it's been journey but I've been really blessed how everything go day by day. I just try to keep it as simple as I can.

As you get closer and closer to returning, do you feel anxious? Excited? What's that like, getting closer and closer?

Jusuf Nurkić: I feel hungry. I feel every day hungry more and when I'm with the team, I feel even more hungry. I lost some weight and I feel great, more explosive, more quick. I just feel like when day come I'm going to be the Double Beast. It's just how it is.

Are you doing these kind of workouts every day? Skipping days?

Jusuf Nurkić: It's a rehab schedule. If I'm doing this every day, I'm probably play already. Like I said, it's important to be really smart what I'm doing and I feel like people around me and team was really careful about that. I forget to tell thanks to everybody who did the support to my injury. It was amaze me with the billboard and stuff, it mean a lot to me. Knowing that people want to see my practice and stuff, I just try to keep as simple as I can for me. And they probably gonna understand later when I come back and see how I'm gonna be. I'm not expecting myself to just do the rehab, I want to get better. So I want to get better as a player, I want to get better as a person. I see a lot of things differently from the court, from the bench, the locker room. I've been there like a totally different person to see the different perspective. And I feel like I can help even more.

How long have you been pain-free?

Jusuf Nurkić: From after four weeks when I walk.

You mentioned you felt like it was time to get back on the road. Why?

Jusuf Nurkić: I just want to be with the team and like, the closer I get and as time go on, I feel like they need to feel my presence because I am a presence and they know that. I feel like I try to help the people, potentially can talk to them, but they obviously need to play, they need to figure out. You have some stuff you can teach, obviously you need to read the game for the game give it to you. But I feel like definitely we still try to looking for ourselves to find where we fit, and that's a problem. You can't really rely too much in the season to figure out, you gotta figure out. At the end of the day we are human beings and know what it takes to win.

You said your weight is down, what do you weigh right now?

Jusuf Nurkić: I said I can't tell you everything (laughs). I'm good man, my weight gonna be great. I lost more than 10 pounds and just getting more muscle, getting more legs ready. My legs big part of what I do and for more of the career I've been really good with that. SO it's about load and how you want to prepare yourself to play more games and more minutes. That's all I care about.

Where are your on-court skills at right now? It looks like you're shooting the ball well.

Jusuf Nurkić: I just said it: I want to be better through this process. I'm not trying to do rehab just to be healthy. So if it's a time to get better, I'm going to find a way to get better and to shoot more. I know my skills. Like I said, not necessarily all the time I do my skills, I do what's best for the team. A lot of times it just stay that way. A lot of players don't want to accept their role but they have to. I feel like we have an experienced team, they've been around the league already enough to know what kind of role they need to play. I think for us it's just mentally now to be ready to sacrifice something for the win.

Do you allow yourself to think about the moment when you do return to a game?

Jusuf Nurkić: I'm nervous about that, but all I know when the whistle blow up, I'm going to forget about that. It's going to be interesting part from the time the ball go up, but from that moment I know I'm in the safest place I can be.

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