The NBA season is a grueling 82-game marathon. Rarely do we see players make it through the season unscathed or without some kind of ding or bruise. The Portland Trail Blazers have suffered through their fair share of injuries this season, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Chris Kaman, Wesley Matthews (out for season) and others dealing with some type of ailment.
The Blazers have quickly gone from legit title contenders down to just getting into the playoffs because of their fast start.
There were already plenty of question marks surrounding Portland’s title hopes when Aldridge suffered his initial hand injury, but he opted to forgo surgery in hopes of a championship run. After the acquisition of Arron Afflalo to bolster the bench, Portland’s stock seemed to be at an all-time high.
However, Portland’s past issues are haunting its current aspirations.
It feels like it was just yesterday that Brandon Roy was “The Man” and Greg Oden was supposed to be the next dominant big man to take the league by storm. That never came to fruition as Roy retired due to an accumulation of knee injuries and Oden dealt with his own set of knee problems, although he may try to make another comeback.
Drafted in back-to-back years, Roy in 2006 and Oden in 2007, these two were supposed to be the cornerstones responsible for bringing Portland back to the glory days. Obviously plans have changed, but injuries of Blazers past keep reemerging.
This looked like the year Portland could make a title run in the Western Conference. Last year, Portland finally broke through its postseason slump, making it past the first round for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. They did it in dramatic fashion, too.
Just in case you forgot:
But instead of prepping for a postseason run, Portland is just trying to get healthy with the Western Conference race as tight as ever. Just 2½ games separate the No. 7 seed from the No. 3 seed, making every game that much more important.
With that being said, Portland certainly needed to perform at its absolute best this past road trip, but they wound up going just 1-4. After starting their road trip off with a victory against the Toronto, the Blazers suffered losses against Washington, Miami, Orlando and Memphis.
Portland’s defense has been the biggest issue during this stretch, with opponents putting up 103.5 points per game. Before the road trip, Portland’s opponents put up just 97.5 points per game. Opponents shot the three-ball as well as Kyle Korver on the road trip, knocking down 50 percent of their long-balls.
The impact of Matthews’s injuries was predicted to be negative, and it has been. It’s just hard to replace the level of production that Matthews gave the Blazers, as he’s one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA. Matthews is one of four players in the NBA to make at least 2.5 three-pointers per game, while also averaging at least 1.0 steals. (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, James Harden)
Matthews is set to be a unrestricted free agent after this season, but history isn’t on his side when it comes to returning from a ruptured Achilles. It’s one of the more difficult injuries to return from as an NBA player.
Will Portland take a chance on Matthews moving forward? Or will history push Portland in another direction?
Then there’s the Aldridge issue. His initial injury was a torn ligament in his left thumb, but the latest injury he suffered in the loss to Memphis on Saturday was different and he’s questionable for Tuesday’s game against Golden State. Meanwhile, Batum has dealt with several injuries this year and is questionable for the next game as well with a back injury.
With the combination of Matthews, Aldridge and Batum dealing with injuries, Portland needs to dig deep and try to play with a sense of urgency despite being short-handed. Damian Lillard in particular will have to step up. The ghosts of injuries past are striking down on this Blazers squad right now, and the damage might be beyond repair this season.