Interview: Eyüphan Koç, TrendBasket
Editing: Kemal Rutkay Özcan, TrendBasket
On Saturday night, Portland Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles Lakers 95-92 on the road, despite the absence of injured Damian Lillard. After the game, we got together with Portland center Jusuf Nurkic for an exclusive interview.
Portland has been struggling in the last couple of weeks. Do you think this win in Los Angeles is going to be the start of an upward trend, especially with the relatively easy schedule coming up?
We have some more issues that we are suffering from, particularly injuries. But we have a high confidence. We believe we can always compete against any other team in the league. I feel good about us and our chances this season.
What are your expectations for the Blazers? What is the end goal this season and do you think you are going to get there?
Oh yeah. We are definitely going to be in the play-offs, we are a play-off team. We have shown that over the last couple of years and we will continue to do that. The idea is to keep on fighting for the higher seed, and I think we have a great chance this year again.
You have shown you are much more than a traditional center. What is the next leap going to be in your own game?
For my own game, I just need to relax and be myself on the court. I suffered from some injury related problems. Now, as always, the most important thing for me is to help the team win games. I just need to a better job on both ends and make my shots.
In his first full season at Portland, Nurkic has so far averaged 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks in 27.2 minutes of play.
You always emphasized how important the fan base is for you. And atmosphere is completely different in the NBA compared to the Balkans. Do you miss the continuous support and chanting in the arenas?
I don’t know which one is better for me, honestly. But it’s definitely different. I can say I found a new home in Portland and I feel good about the support we get from our fans. But like I said, it’s a different crowd overseas. Greece and Turkey particularly, with games between Fenerbahce and Efes, and playing against Galatasaray was really tough.
Do you have favorite European players in the NBA, special ones that you like playing against?
A lot of Europeans are playing really well as of now and I am not going to say I have a favorite. After all, it only matters if you win games and that’s my mentality.
How about the Bosnian national team? What are your feelings about the good run they have without you and Teletovic being there? Are you hopeful about the qualification?
I really do not know what is going to go on, especially with the conflict between FIBA and the clubs. We got lucky so far, and those guys are what we have. Our younger players are going to be even better when given the chance. We will see.