Suns’ Jusuf Nurkic focused on role as he builds chemistry with Kevin Durant, Big 3

Feb 2, 2024, 7:28 AM | Updated: 9:36 am

When you think Phoenix Suns, the Big 3 of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal likely come to mind first.

But Suns big man Jusuf Nurkic deserves some recognition for his work in the paint, especially of late.

Putting up one of his best games of the year on Wednesday night behind 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 11 rebounds and two blocks, Nurkic was a major factor in Phoenix’s 136-120 win over the Brooklyn Nets, whose switching defense allowed the Suns center to get matchups against smaller players.

The matchup also marked the latest chapter of Nurkic’s two-man game with Kevin Durant, who led the way for the Suns with 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Five of Durant’s eight assists went to Nurkic.

“I think the understanding of who I am as a person, I think he understands it the best so far as a player,” Nurkic told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Thursday. “Knowing whatever he does, I’m looking for him out there and any player. Just how great he is, it’s not really that hard but I’m also understanding my role.

“It’s not going to be like last night every game. My coaches didn’t want me to shoot threes and we needed to be better in our roles, so I was like, ‘I’m all in on this.’ Most of the time, if you don’t like your role, you try to play something that people don’t want you to play and I just want to complement these people and players and be the best teammate I can. … I’m trying to do my best in my role to be a star. Whatever it takes to win the game, I’m trying to do.”

The performances of Nurkic and Durant helped Phoenix etch its ninth win in 11 games while also keeping the Suns in the sixth spot out West and trailing the Sacramento Kings by only percentage points.

As for what’s next, it’s all about staying available when it counts.

“We can always be better, but for us … I personally want to be healthy for the postseason,” Nurkic said. “If there’s some games where we’re not perfect, we’re OK with that. We try to be the best we possibly can but losing some games here and there, it’s not going to be end of the road.

“We’re not super high or super low on wins or losses. We understand what our goal is and we try to be as healthy as we possibly can. That’s personally my goal for myself and the team.”

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