By the time the 2017 trade deadline approached, the Nuggets had had enough, shipping Nurkic and his attitude to Portland in a trade. Feeling vulnerable and unsure as he entered the Trail Blazers locker room for the first time, Nurkic needed just five minutes to know his life had changed, professionally and personally.
He had met Damian Lillard, the team’s star, and immediately Lillard made an impression. In their first conversation, Lillard was direct. Honest. But he was also warm and showed an understanding of Nurkic’s story.
Nurkic got a feeling that went against everything that had been ingrained in him by his Bosnian roots. He liked Lillard. He trusted him. And he decided right then that he would open himself and allow Lillard to shape him.