Suns center Jusuf Nurkic happy making necessary sacrifices

Nov 21, 2023, 3:26 PM | Updated: 3:27 pm

Jusuf Nurkic, Phoenix Suns...

John Collins #20 of the Utah Jazz reaches for the ball with Jusuf Nurkic #20 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of an NBA In-Season Tournament game at Delta Center on November 17, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

It’s easy to tell that Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic is in a good place mentally ahead of his first regular season meeting against his former team, the Portland Trail Blazers.

Even from his first answer when joining Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo, Nurkic emphasized there’s no bad blood. “This is love, man,” he said. “Our marriage was great, and divorce was even better.”

He talked about how much he appreciates the “respect and transparency” he received from the Portland brain trust between coach Chauncey Billups, general manager Joe Cronin and owner Jody Allen.

“I understand how rarely that happens,” Nurkic said. “But for me it was really great, and (I have) nothing but respect for the Blazers.”

This doesn’t change the competitive fire he has preparing to play against them. Nurkic added “I’m super happy and excited to see these people every time I play them … and say hi and play, obviously beat them.”

He told Burns & Gambo that he and then-teammate Damian Lillard knew their trades were coming, but they didn’t know how long it would take. Nurkic says there were five or six teams interested in his services, but Phoenix was always his choice destination.

Since arriving in Phoenix, he hasn’t found his comfort zone yet, but understands that that’s okay.

We understand we’re gonna take some time and early season struggles are probably better than later,” Nurkic said. “So for us, we look at it like a big picture, from what we need to be to how we’re gonna get there.”

Another thing Nurkic gets, unlike his predecessor, is how his role dictates a different approach.

“It’s a sacrifice when you have such a great team like we have, a superteam … you understand you’re not gonna have as many touches as you used to … ” he said. “So it’s not a big deal for me, I’m trying to do whatever work that be, dirty work, rebound, play defense, assists, whatever that means.”

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