Fresh off his first practice with the Trail Blazers on Tuesday, newly acquired center Jusuf Nurkic will make his debut Wednesday at Utah, coach Terry Stotts said.
Stotts ran the 7-footer through 4-on-4 drills during practice to introduce the team’s plays, and said he liked what he saw.
“Very skilled young guy. Nice touch around the basket, good feel for the game,’’ Stotts said. “And, he needs to get in better shape.’’
Nurkic, who was acquired from Denver for a 2017 first round pick and Mason Plumlee, fell out of the Nuggets rotation in the past month. In the last 17 games, he did not play in five and had five others where he played less than eight minutes. Only twice in the last month has he played more than 20 minutes.
This season he is averaging 8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 18 minutes a game, but he says he is capable of more.
“I’m able to do a lot more stuff,’’ Nurkic said. “(Denver) kind of hold me down. I wish them good luck. I’m here to show the coach I can work hard. I’m going to be in gym all day and work, and be patient.’’
CJ McCollum said he studied film on Nurkic and likes his ability to post-up with his back to the basket – a facet the Blazers haven’t had since LaMarcus Aldridge left in 2014 – as well as his ability to contest shots on defense.
“It was good to see him get up and down. He’s very skilled,’’ McCollum said. “He can move. He’s strong as an ox. I look forward to seeing him play.’’
McCollum said it will likely take time for Nurkic to become acclimated to the Blazers’ plays and players, but both said it should help Nurkic that the All-Star break starts on Thursday, allowing more time for film study.
“Obviously, it will be a process,’’ McCollum said. “It’s not going to look perfect overnight, but I think he will help us right away.’’
Nurkic repeatedly said he is “all about winning” and that he will do whatever Stotts asks when it comes to his role. He also said he is excited to play with All-Star level guards like Damian Lillard and McCollum, noting that he has never played with such a high-caliber backcourt.
“First time in my life I get to play with those kind of guards,’’ Nurkic said. “I can’t wait.’’
His first chance will be Wednesday at Utah against a Jazz team that is 34-22 and a half-game out of fourth in the West and features one of the premier defensive centers in the NBA in Rudy Gobert.
Down the road, though, Nurkic said he hopes his stay in Portland will be long term. He is under contract through next season.
“I think it’s the perfect place for me,’’ Nurkic said. “They need me; I need them.’’
Next up: Blazers at Utah, 6 p.m. Wednesday (KGW).