After trying to avoid core stomach surgery, Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers finally decided to go under the knife to repair an abdominal injury.
Lillard initially suffered a stomach injury inside the NBA Bubble in the summer of 2020. He aggravated the issue while prepping for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that were rescheduled for the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic. The injury didn’t heal properly in the time between the Olympics and the Blazers season.
“It was pretty bad during the Olympics,” said Lillard. “I thought resting for 30 days after the Olympics would help, but it didn’t.”
A sluggish Lillard was clearly not his old self when the season began. The Trail Blazers struggled with a 5-7 start in November, and they shut him down for a couple of weeks hoping he would feel better. Lillard returned to the Blazers after Thanksgiving, but the injury persisted. He even resorted to a cortisone shot, which had very little effect.
In 29 games this season, Lillard averaged 24 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. His numbers were off from the previous two seasons, and his 3-point shooting was definitely not as sharp.
Lillard played his last game on New Year’s Eve before the Blazers decided to shut him down for a couple of weeks while the team headed East on a six-game road trip. Earlier in the week, Lillard and the Blazers met with several abdominal specialists and multiple doctors recommended surgery.
“It makes no sense to keep doing it the way we did it,” said Lillard. “It’s just what had to happen.”
Tank or trade?
The next question remains: will Lillard return this year, or will the Trail Blazers shut down the All-Star guard for the remainder of the season? The Blazers indicated they’d evaluate Lillard in six weeks and proceed from there. Similar surgeries could take six to eight weeks to heal.
Word on the street is that the Blazers are considering tanking for the rest of the season to secure a lottery pick. The Blazers will tip their hand shortly as the NBA trade deadline looms four weeks from now.
Both Lillard and his backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, have been mentioned in numerous NBA trade rumors. Lillard said he wants to finish his career in Portland, but the economics of the NBA could lead him down a different path. Meanwhile, McCollum is fodder for trade rumors involving the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons. McCollum has been out for several weeks while recovering from a collapsed lung.
The Blazers are 16-24 and sit in the #11 spot in the Western Conference. They’re on the playoff bubble, and are on the road for 10 out of the next 12 games, which doesn’t bode well for a team that doesn’t travel well. The Blazers have one of the worst road records in the NBA with a 2-13 clip away from the Moda Center.
The Blazers are +15000 odds to win the 2022 NBA Championship and they saw their odds trend downward from +12000 after the Lillard news broke.