“It’s not how I would’ve envisioned the season.”
CJ McCollum has never spoken truer words.
Before the 2019-20 season started there were talks of a championship, but that was when Portland's roster was a healthy one.
Saturday night, the Trail Blazers not only lost 128-120 to the Lakers, they also lost yet another big man to injury.
After getting the starting power forward nod against the Lakers, Skal Labissiere limped off the court during the first quarter.
Labissiere did not return to the game and only played three minutes before taking a foul at the 9:23 mark of the first quarter so he could be subbed out. Labissiere limped straight back to the locker room. The Blazers later announced that the 23-year-old had suffered a left knee injury.
“Skal has a left knee injury, he had an MRI and results are pending, so that’s the Skal update,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame.
Labissiere was not in the Trail Blazers locker room after the game.
His teammates wished him a speedy recovery and discussed how difficult it is to see another teammate go out with an injury.
I mean, it’s tough any time you lose a teammate to an injury. Just because you don’t know how serious it could be or how much time he’ll miss. It’s a guy who’s been in our rotation all season. It hurts even more especially with us already dealing with so many injuries. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard postgame
Anthony Tolliver and Nassir Little saw an uptick in minutes with Labissiere out. Lillard also played more minutes than usual finishing with 31 points in 39 minutes.
Coach Stotts gave credit to Tolliver for stepping up.
“I was glad that he had a good shooting night. We knew he could make shots like that, and we never lost confidence in that. Getting him on a little roll will certainly help moving forward,” Stotts said.
Tolliver hit his first four three-point attempts.
He finished the night with a season-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, all coming from distance.
“It was good to see him hit shots. He’s been a good shooter in this league for a long time, so it was good to see him have a good shooting night,” Stotts added.
At 34-years-old, Tolliver, has seen several of his teammates get injured over the years.
But that doesn’t make it any less difficult.
“It’s never easy. We don’t know the extent of it yet and what’s going on with it, but obviously he couldn’t really put much pressure on it… Hopefully it’s nothing too bad,” Tolliver said.
Tolliver does, however, know that there’s one thing that is certain when it comes to injuries:
“This is a league that it’s next man up. You know, you have to step up and have everybody step up and just fill the void, and go out there and try to get it wins.”
As a veteran, Tolliver went to his go-to, to try and fill the void of losing Labissiere:
Knocking down threes.
Once he was out and went to the back, that’s whenever my mindset changes a little bit. I’ve kind of been in and out of the rotation, not really knowing when I’m going to go in or not, but I just knew at that point, it’s next man up… If my number was called then I was going to go out there and do what I could. -- Trail Blazers veteran Anthony Tolliver
He also admitted this Trail Blazers team might be the most injured teams he has been on over his 11 years in the league.
“It’s definitely one of them, especially to one position. I don’t know if I’ve quite seen it… Well, bigs – let’s put it like that. Four or fives type thing -- to where it’s so many guys are out with injury. Hopefully as we can continue to go through it we can put some wins together,” Tolliver said.
But as Tolliver stepped up Saturday, the team knows they are going to need multiple guys stepping up depending on the severity of Labissiere's injured knee.
“Next man up, losing another big, it’s tough, but it’s part of the game… Injuries are a terrible part of the game, but you have to be able to move forward,” McCollum said.
Now, Portland will move forward to prepare for Monday’s game when the Blazers host the Phoenix Suns before embarking on a five-game trip.