Nurkić To Play For Bosnia And Herzegovina In Upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

by Casey Holdahl
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As we've seen at times throughout the years, even the most patriotic NBA players tend to avoid playing for their respective countries in international competition when they're negotiating a new contract. While playing in the Olympics might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the same could be said for a player cashing in during the prime of his athletic career, which is why players scheduled to hit free agency typically politely decline invitations to from their respective national teams.

But once the ink on that guaranteed contract is dry, there's usually nothing left to get in the way of love of country. Such is the case for Trail Blazers center and proud Bosnian and Herzegovinian Jusuf Nurkić. After signing a new four-year contract with Portland a few weeks ago, Nurkić has reportedly agreed to join the Bosnian and Herzegovenian national team in September for two games as they attempt to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup...

"I had a meeting with coach Dule Vujosevic in Belgrade, and we spoke a bit in the national team training camp in Sarajevo last month," (Nurkić) said to Bosnia and Herzegovina newspaper Dnevni Avaz.

"A couple of days ago he told me the preparation period starts about two weeks before the next two games. I told him I'm coming. We stay in touch all the time.

"I am aware that we are behind our main rivals to start the Second Round. But these two games could be the start of something good for us. A couple of wins, and we are back in contention for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019."

(While the truth of these things can sometimes get lost in translation, Nurkić seemed to confirm the report with a post today on Instagram)

After losses to France and Belgium in their last two group stage games, Bosnia and Herzegovina currently sit in last place in Group K, which also includes the Czech Republic, Russia, Finland and Bulgaria, with a 2-4 record. Having Nurkić, who averaged 19.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.0 block during EuroBasket 2017 qualifiers, would certainly bolster Bosnia and Herzegovina's chances of moving up into the top three of Group K, and thus, qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, a team evidently known both as the "Dragons" and "Golden Lillies," is scheduled to play Finland on Thursday, September 13 and the Czech Republic on Sunday, September 16, after which one assumes Nurkić will head back to Portland in time for the start of training camp on September 25. The Dragons/Golden Lillies will be on their own after that, as their final four games of qualification are scheduled during the NBA season, but having Nurkić on the floor for their next two contests will hopefully put them in a position to qualify without him.