Trail Blazers

With CJ McCollum's injury, don't expect a major personnel move by the Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers

CJ McCollum will be out of action for at least another month, as we found out late last night. Can we expect the team to make any moves to pick up the slack while he is out?

In a word, no. Probably not.

I don't think there is any kind of trade or free-agent signing that would have much of an impact. This is not the time to tear this team up -- and the most tradeable players they have are probably the injured ones. I could see them signing a two-way contract with a player, but the Trail Blazers can do only one minimum salary contract and stay under the tax and that move would best be saved for later.

As far as a major deal, better to wait until after the Feb. 6 deadline when last off-season's free agents are eligible to be dealt or when a decent buyout opportunity might pop up.

McCollum, a hard-working player who has toiled relentlessly to improve his game, was off to the best start of his career this season. He was putting up all-star numbers. And then the news arrived of a hairline foot fracture.

And I must say that I feel much more sympathy for McCollum than I do for Trail Blazer fans.

 

Not that I don’t feel sorry for the fans… it’s been difficult to handle this team’s injury disappointments over the years, particularly when those injuries have often come to the team’s best players.

But I’ve also been around the NBA and the Trail Blazers long enough to know how random these things can be. This is not the only team to suffer through injuries to its best players. It happens all over the league and I think it might be more common this season because of the short off-season and quick training camp.

And I must admit I am tired of people looking to play the blame game for the injuries. That doesn’t fly.

The Trail Blazers have lost Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic and McCollum to injury this season. All are out with broken bones. I’m pretty sure there is little a training or medical staff can do to protect anyone from a broken bone.

Pro basketball is a physically taxing sport played by very big and strong people. These things happen. And not just to Trail Blazers.

Portland has had some tough luck. But some good luck, too.

The Trail Blazers have had some fortuitous seasons when injuries have not hampered the team’s success.

Portland won a championship in 1976-77 in large part because, for some very fortunate reason, Bill Walton didn’t miss a large amount of time due to injury and was healthy in the playoffs. He played 65 games that season, the most he ever played in a season for the Trail Blazers.

In fact, there is only one season in his entire career when he played more than 70 games and it was in Boston nine years later, when he started only two games and averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game.

Only in hindsight do we realize how lucky it was to keep that group healthy enough to win a title. The squad was riddled with injuries in the following season, one that began with a 50-10 record.

The early 1990s Trail Blazers got to the Finals twice and stayed relatively healthy through those runs.

 

And the good news this time is that none of these players -- Collins, Nurkic or McCollum -- has been ruled out for the season.

This team needs to pull together and somehow figure out a way to hold the fort until the players can return to duty. Playoff seeding isn’t going to matter nearly as much this season because the homecourt doesn’t figure to be as important.

If fans are back in the arenas by playoff time, there likely won’t be enough people there to influence outcomes. The rest of this season is going to be all about beating the teams the Blazers are supposed to beat and stealing a few wins against better teams.

Just get to the playoffs and see what happens.

That’s not too much to ask. And it must be done without excessive playing time for the players who are still healthy. This isn’t the time to double down on overplaying any of these people. 

But it is time to tighten the defense and be efficient on offense. Time to use some of the young players on the bench who haven’t been getting enough consistent time to develop. Time to simply play better.

And it’s no time to surrender.