Support for Jusuf Nurkic following leg break

Portland Trail Blazers centre Jusuf Nurkic making a move to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 8). The Trail Blazers won the game 148-144 in double overtime and clinched a play-off spot for the sixth conse
Portland Trail Blazers centre Jusuf Nurkic making a move to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 8). The Trail Blazers won the game 148-144 in double overtime and clinched a play-off spot for the sixth consecutive National Basketball Association season. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • It was a horrific injury that brought back memories of Gordon Hayward, Julius Randle and Paul George's leg breaks.

Jusuf Nurkic was having another monster night with a team-high 32 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for the Portland Trail Blazers when he landed awkwardly after going up for a rebound in the second overtime of their National Basketball Association (NBA) game against the Brooklyn Nets.

In footage that went viral on social media, the centre's leg snapped upon impact, with the foot and bottom of his shin pointing outwards.

The home team had been leading 134-132 then and, while they went on to win 148-144 in double overtime on Monday evening to clinch a play-off spot for the sixth straight league season, the Trail Blazers "were not celebrating".

Instead, their locker room was "quiet" after the game.

Coach Terry Stotts also called the season-ending injury suffered by Nurkic, who was diagnosed with compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula, as "devastating".

In a post-game interview that was abruptly cut short, he added: "Said a prayer for him. That was about it."

The Bosnian had been enjoying "one hell of a season" - the best league term of his career with an average of 15.6 points per game and his rise had coincided with the Trail Blazers being thought of as championship contenders.

Earlier this month, TNT commentator and former NBA great Charles Barkley had tipped Portland, who are fourth in the West and four games behind two-time defending league champions the Golden State Warriors, "to go to the NBA Finals".

The hosts, however, will have to put thoughts about the post-season to one side for now, with Nurkic's well-being taking priority.

His teammates were visibly distraught afterwards, with back-up centre Enes Kanter describing the situation as "definitely tough".

The Turk said: "I'm going to go home and pray for him (Nurkic), because it's about more than basketball."

Fellow Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins added: "It's terrible. You never want to see that happen.

"All we can do is be there for him and hope he's in as little pain as possible and let him know we've got his back."

Their All-Star guard Damian Lillard also equated Nurkic's injury to that suffered by George at a USA Basketball scrimmage in 2014.

He said: "It's going to be hard on our team. Every way you look at it, it's a blow... We've got to move forward and continue to try to get the job done. We've got to get tougher."

Nurkic's peers also took to social media to send their well-wishes.

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons and the Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins all tweeted "prayers up" and using the praying hands emoji.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'Support for Nurkic following leg break'. Print Edition | Subscribe