The team has been hampered all year with injuries to key players, including star point guard Damian Lillard, who has not played for the team since December 31 due to a lingering abdominal injury that required surgery in January. Since then, the team has been working towards a rebuild, trading Lillard’s co-star C.J McCollum, as well as Norman Powell, at the NBA trade deadline.
Given the state of the team, with no real chance of making the playoffs, it was likely that Lillard would not return this season. The Athletic’s Shams Charania confirmed exactly that on Monday, as the Trail Blazers have officially shut down Lillard for the rest of the season.
The team has said that Lillard has progressed well in rehab, but it appears that they are choosing long-term caution and deciding that it isn’t worth it to have him play in what is likely to be a meaningless finish to the season.
While this news was expected for Trail Blazers fans, it will certainly be an anxiety-ridden offseason for the team as they try to keep Lillard happy enough to stay with the organization. He has previously expressed frustration with the front office, and trading away key players like McCollum and Powell imply they could be planning a full-on rebuild without Lillard in the near future.
His last game in December could end up going down as Lillard’s last as a Blazer unless the franchise doesn’t act quickly to refresh their roster for the 2022-2023 season.