If the Portland Path Blazers ever questioned what an unlucky however well-timed harm seems like, Damian Lillard’s belly problem is it. The workforce introduced Thursday that the All-NBA guard underwent surgical procedure to restore it, and he can be reevaluated in six weeks, with a six-to-eight week timetable to return. Six weeks could be late February, and if he certainly wants the complete eight weeks, that places his return someplace in early March.
The information is a bummer for trade-thirsty NBA followers and media shops in all places, as hours of podcasts discussing doable locations and gobs of Instagram photoshops with Lillard in jerseys aside from Portland’s pinwheel are all for naught — not less than till the offseason. It doesn’t imply Daryl Morey will cease calling/making an attempt to show he’s not utterly botching the Ben Simmons state of affairs, however the commerce deadline is lower than month away, and it’s laborious to think about anybody ponying up this yr for an injured participant getting back from this critical of a surgical procedure who might not have the ability to meaningfully contribute to a title run.
Add in that he’s due $42 million, $45 million, and $48 million over the subsequent three years, and it’s laborious to search out groups with contracts/gamers that Portland could be keen to tackle in change for the perfect participant in franchise historical past. So, my guess is you’re most likely not going to see him traded this season, which seems to have quite a lot of downtime in retailer for a normally busy Dame Time.
He’s been one of many extra sturdy gamers within the NBA, however he’s additionally been some of the closely used. He’s been within the high 10 in minutes per recreation seven of his 10 seasons within the league, and yearly for the previous six, together with the No. 1 spot in 2019-20 (37.5 MPG). He’s by no means performed lower than 66 video games in a season (till now) or lower than 35 minutes per recreation in a season. For context, Steph Curry has solely eclipsed 35 minutes per recreation thrice in his 13 years within the league and has performed lower than 66 video games 4 instances.
Clearly, they’ve been in several conditions, as Golden State is usually in a position to relaxation guys as a result of blowouts and their place within the standings, however whether or not it was Terry Stotts’ incapacity to create offense with out his finest participant, Neil Olshey’s incapacity to provide Stotts gamers who can create offense when Lillard was on the bench, or Lillard remaining keen/wholesome sufficient to have the ability to play all these minutes, he was going to hit a wall ultimately and this was it.
Portland is at the moment 16-24, sitting at tenth within the West, a recreation forward of Sacramento for the final play-in spot, and with out its two finest gamers — CJ McCollum is also sidelined recovering from a collapsed lung. I might say it’ll be laborious to maintain that place, but when the Kings, Spurs, and Pelicans can contend for a play-in spot with these rosters, the Blazers may need to actively tank to guarantee their place within the lottery, which might imply they maintain their decide.
For Path Blazers followers, myself included, it’s what we’ve been hoping for, as a result of Lillard has not been himself this season after he wasn’t himself within the Olympics. The thought is that this staves off a Lillard commerce, hopefully offers the Blazers a excessive draft decide, and possibly permits a participant like Anfernee Simons to blossom right into a McCollum substitute or a commerce asset with added enjoying time. For what it’s price, Simons has averaged 28, 7 and three with 51-43-95 capturing splits over the previous 5 video games (3-2) albeit on practically 37 minutes per recreation.
The perfect case state of affairs is Portland performs for the lottery and will get some luck in it, permitting whoever takes over at GM — be it interim Joe Cronin, who Lillard has endorsed, or in any other case — to flip these property into gamers Lillard needs, additional convincing him to remain, one thing HE HAS SAID HE WANTS TO DO MANY TIMES. This additionally offers new Blazers coach Chauncey Billups a full season to get his footing.
It’s much like the Warriors’ misplaced yr in 2019-20 when Curry received harm, they usually have been in a position to rebuild on the fly as an alternative of making an attempt to do it with mid- to late-round picks. That mentioned, if Lillard calls for a commerce, Portland not less than has a head begin, as a result of they’re going to get all of the perks of a misplaced season regardless of their finest participant remaining on the roster.
I actually instructed a buddy of mine final week that, “I hope Dame shuts it down this yr, so he can get wholesome, and Portland can higher place itself to make much-needed roster adjustments.”
I didn’t say it fairly so eloquently — it was most likely extra like “We suck, shut him the fuck down so we don’t misplaced our decide. Fuck Neil Olshey” — however regardless, I’m as comfortable as may be with this information. Prayers up, Dame. Get effectively quickly. Goodbye this season or subsequent … I hope.