Blazers look toward future after inspired run to playoffs, first - KPTV - FOX 12

Blazers look toward future after inspired run to playoffs, first round sweep

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Jusuf Nurkic (KPTV) Jusuf Nurkic (KPTV)
Damian Lillard addressing the media Tuesday. (KPTV) Damian Lillard addressing the media Tuesday. (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

An inspired run to the playoffs ended in a disheartening first round sweep for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers were blown out in game four by the top-seed Golden State Warriors at the Mode Center on Monday.

"It's one of the craziest seasons I've been a part of in my NBA career," said forward Evan Turner.

The season failed to meet expectations after an uplifting run to the second round of the playoffs a year earlier.

"This is the first year that we didn't exceed expectations and by virtue of that it makes it a little bit disturbing and a little frustrating," said coach Terry Stotts.

The Blazers stumbled out of the gates, but leveled out with a 41-41 record, good enough for the eighth seed in the tough Western Conference.

"Being able to close out games, being able to play better in the last five to seven minutes of games is crucial for winning basketball games and we didn't do that for the entire season," said guard C.J. McCollum.

Portland's immediate future may weigh on the legs of a potential franchise center who played in 20 games for the Blazers after the trade deadline.

"It definitely was amazing for me to come here, the new guy and especially I think 90 percent of them expected failure," said center Jusuf Nurkic.

Four weeks removed from a right leg fracture, Nurkic believes he's two to three months away from being fully healed.

In his brief time as a Blazer, Nurkic made a clear impression on the team.

"I had no idea the player that we got," said guard Damian Lillard. "I was really impressed with him."

Nurkic, who goes by the nickname "The Bosnian Beast," doesn't lack for confidence.

"I am coming from the village of 200 houses, if I don't have the confidence and then don't believe, then who is going to be? I am pretty sure you are not going to believe in me," he said.

General manager Neil Olshey drastically changed the dynamics of the franchise's potential trajectory with the addition of Nurkic.

"I think it got a lot of guys in the roster to understand that the status quo wasn't going to be good enough. We weren't going to just kind of go through the motions for the rest of the season and hope we were going to turn the season around.  We needed some external motivation and incentive to kind of instill a little bit of a new spirit in what was happening," Olshey said.

Portland went from 11 games under .500 to earning a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season after Nurkic's arrival in Portland.

That's not enough for the NBA's youngest team.

"If you don't like it, how bad do you want to win? Because that is what I am interested in. It's time for us to demand more of each other," Lillard said.

The Blazers have one of the league's highest payrolls, but they also have three first-round picks in June's draft.

"The three draft picks give us a lot of flexibility, not just in acquiring players in the draft, but in tools to get deals done," Olshey said.

Regardless of who is on the court for the Blazers, they will still have a new look. Nike becomes the NBA's official uniform and apparel provider next season.

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