DALLAS – How many times during this Trail Blazers season have people thought to themselves – not another one!?
Most Trail Blazers fans have probably lost count, or at least, want to lose count.
Between injuries and illnesses, the Blazers have dealt with some major adversity through their first 43 games.
During Blazers head coach Terry Stotts’ postgame interview in Dallas Friday night, after Portland lost to the Mavericks 120-112, Stotts started off with this statement:
“It seems like every time we play Dallas, we end up having one of these games. Very competitive, teams get leads, and then the other team comes back. Kind of what happened tonight.”
But, that opening statement could’ve easily sounded like this:
“It seems like every time we play Dallas, we end up getting injured.”
Friday night, CJ McCollum was the latest Trail Blazers to suffer an injury. McCollum left the game early in the second quarter due to a left ankle sprain.
The Blazers starting shooting guard received treatment in the locker room during the rest of the game. He said he couldn’t tell the severity of the injury in comparison to other times he has rolled his ankle, saying that, “usually the second day is the worst.”
McCollum added, “we’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow. I’ll get some treatment tonight, try to compress it and see how it feels.”
When losing McCollum’s scoring and play-making ability, Damian Lillard, who had a team-high 34 points in the loss, felt it was necessary to take over. But, not just in the scoring department-- overall as a leader, as well.
“I think that means our ball movement has to be better, and even smarter. Guys got to come in and be aggressive collectively to make up for that loss. Obviously, naturally, I just feel like I have to level up my play as well,” Lillard said.
So, for the people at home who have lost count…
The Blazers are now without:
Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture)
Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon)
Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation),
Skal Labissiere (left knee inflammation)
Pau Gasol (left team to focus on his rehab of left foot fracture)
And remember, Collins dislocated his shoulder in Dallas in the third game of the season.
Then CJ McCollum, Hassan Whiteside, Damian Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. have all been sick.
They can't catch a break.
Now, how the are Blazers coping with getting dealt another injury?
Lillard know as the team captain, he has to make sure this squad is staying positive.
There’s no reason for us to point out the obvious – we know we’re facing injuries, but the games continue, the season goes on. So, I think it only does something negative for our mentality if we’re looking at like ‘we’ve got injuries,’ and looking for it as a crutch. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard
That doesn’t mean Lillard hasn’t been frustrating with how the season has played out and having to deal with all the injuries.
“I mean, it sucks,” Lillard said. “We’ve been experiencing it all season long. Coming into the season without Nurk and then the last time we was here losing Zach. And then Rodney goes down, and then Skal, we just constantly got guys dropping.”
Lillard was not only trying to pick up the slack with McCollum out, but he was also dealing with an upper respiratory infection, something that has made its way around the team.
As Lillard sat there talking with the media after the game, he had three things in his locker that aren’t usually there: An inhaler, a bottle of Emergen-C, and what looked like a packet of some type of cold medication.
Lillard wasn’t the only one trying to shake this nasty cold. Gary Trent Jr. was forced to leave the game early in the fourth quarter due to illness. He then received an IV after the game.
In Friday’s losing effort, Hassan Whiteside had another strong performance with 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting to go along with his 18 rebounds and five blocks.
Whiteside doesn’t recall ever being on team that has had to battle through this many ailments and injuries.
“I’ve never dealt with a team with this many injuries and illnesses, it’s crazy,” Whiteside said. “It’s tough… It’s a very talented team. I just hate that fans and the organization can’t see it healthy.”
While the newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony, added,
“It’s very unfortunate. If you’re not injured, you’re sick – it seems like that’s what’s going on with us right now. In sports, it’s next man up, whoever is next – gotta be ready.”
As the next man or in the Blazers case right now, the next men stay ready; McCollum is ready to “battle” through his ankle injury.
“It’s tough, it’s tough. Injuries are a part of the game obviously. It’s unfortunate that I was next up on the list, but I just have to try to battle and fight through it. This was a winnable game. Tonight, we played well and fought hard but came up short, so it’s back to the drawing board to get ready for tomorrow [in Oklahoma City].”
The Trail Blazers and Thunder tip-off at 6:00pm PT, just 23 and a half hours after Friday’s night start time in Dallas.