Damian Lillard had surgery on Thursday morning to address the abdominal injury that has plagued him all season, and he will be re-evaluated in 5-6 weeks, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, slightly sooner than the 6-8-week timeframe reported Wednesday. Lillard has already missed 11 games thus far this season, and the injury bothered him while playing for Team USA at the Olympics. He is averaging 24 points per game, His lowest total since the 2014-15 season.
Lillard told Yahoo Sports that he “feels good” after the procedure.
This is still an extended absence, and likely a death blow for any lingering playoff hopes the Portland Trail Blazers might have held, especially since CJ McCollum is still out with a collapsed lung. The Blazers are 16-24 and in 10th place in the Western Conference. They have relied heavily on Anfernee Simons to keep them afloat of late, and the fourth-year guard has delivered with almost 28 points per game over Portland’s last five outings.
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Lillard has been adamant that he does not want to be traded from Portland to a more immediate contender, but Simons’ breakout combined with the presumably higher draft pick the Blazers will receive without Lillard could make a rebuild tempting. The Blazers fired general manager Neil Olshey earlier in the season and are still seeking a permanent replacement. Reports have suggested that possible candidates for the position are interested in trading Lillard and starting a rebuild, but without the position filled on a full-time basis, it’s impossible to know what direction the Blazers will go in.
Regardless, this is the first significant injury the 31-year-old Lillard has endured in the NBA. He has been among the most durable stars in basketball since arriving in Portland, but no player is injury proof. Now Portland will have to figure out how to move forward with its best player sidelined for the foreseeable future.