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Nurkić, Hood Return To The Moda Center In Preseason Loss To Kings

PORTLAND -- There weren’t any fans in the stands to see it live and in person, but the return of two beloved Trail Blazers to the Moda Center was a welcomed sight nonetheless.

After missing out on the majority of last season due to injury, both Jusuf Nurkić and Rodney Hood played their first games on Portland’s home court in over a year in Portland’s 121-106 preseason loss to the Kings Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“In the last year and a half, they both missed a full year,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It’s been, for both of them, it was an arduous road back. Thankfully Nurk was able to play in the bubble and gain some confidence about being back on the court, Rodney is going through that right now. But I’m happy for both those guys. It’s been a long 18 months for both of them.”

The Trail Blazers are now 1-1 in preseason play.

Nurkić already showed during Portland’s 2020 restart schedule that he had no lingering physical effects from suffering multiple compound fractures in his left leg that he suffered in a victory versus the Brooklyn Nets on March 25, 2019. But playing a game on the same court where he suffered such a gruesome injury might have qualified as the last bit of rehabilitation he had to complete.

“I didn’t have one practice with the team, but this my first practice and it was cool to see new guys in,” said Nurkić. “I didn’t try to be too aggressive, I tried to see what’s going on, what people like, what they don’t like and go from there.”

That rehab was completed in the second quarter when Nurkić, who started the game and would go on to play 13 minutes, slipped and fell while going up for a rebound at almost the exact same spot on the floor where his leg broke in two places roughly 20 month prior. And while he did take a shot to the head on the play, he didn’t seem bothered otherwise and noted post-game that he didn’t linger on any of the similarities.

“To me, the bubble was cool, but this thing was weird,” said Nurkić, who finished with four points, four rebounds, two blocks, a steal and an assist in 13 minutes. “I’m just happy me and Rodney was back on the floor. Like, really grateful to be like, in that position again. But I don’t know, I told CJ during the game it was weird for me, just being on the floor after such a long period of time. It kind of was really different.”

As for Hood, Sunday’s contest was the first time he’s played in a game, at the Moda Center or otherwise, since rupturing his left Achilles in a loss to the Lakers on December 6, 2019. The 6-8 wing out of Duke entered the game at the 5:17 mark of the first quarter, played 12 minutes total and finished with two points, four assists, two rebonds and a block.

“It was great,” said Hood. “The first couple minutes was a little fast for me, had to get the pace down a little bit, there was a couple shots I wish I could have got back, hesitating. But after the first few minutes, I felt good to get up and down. This is the first scrimmage-like thing I’ve done. So it’s been a year, so I can’t be too hard on myself, but it was good to get out there today.”

Other than missing the energy and support from the fans, Hood said he felt good about his return to competition. He might have had a few lingering thoughts due to the serious nature of the injury, but it didn’t take long to put any hesitation behind him.

“Certain movements when you playing in a crowd and a bunch of guys around, you kind of think about it,” said Hood. “But I feel good, I’m not really hesitant about it. I know my body has a changed a little bit since I’ve played, but I felt good. Just need to get more and more reps. I know it’s a short time before we play but getting more reps, I think, will help me a lot.”

With Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Nurkić and Hood all sitting out the second half, the Trail Blazers were led by Harry Giles III, who tormented his former team for the second-consecutive game with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 26 minutes.

Gary Trent Jr., who primarily played point guard in the second half with Lillard sitting and Anfernee Simons missing the game due to a sore hamstring, went 7-of-18 from the field and 3-of-6 from three for 17 points to go with three assists, two steals and a block in 34 minutes.

Derrick Jones Jr. scored seven of his 15 points at the free throw line and also grabbed six rebounds in 26 minutes. Despite playing limited minutes, McCollum added 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from three.

Eight Kings scored in double figures, with both Richaun Holmes and Kyle Guy going for 14 points.

Next up, the Trail Blazers finish out their four-game preseason schedule by heading to Denver to play two games versus the Nuggets. The first is scheduled for Wednesday, December 16 at 6 p.m.