Surprise! One third of the Portland Trail Blazers are dealing with minor injuries just five days into training camp. Aldridge (quad), Williams (ankle), Barton (concussion), Wright (finger), and Watson (calf) are each on the mend. It’s a situation Portland is all too familiar with, given the aptly named “Frail Blazers” era, but the team responsible for the health of the players has some new faces this year.
Shortly after last season’s end, the Blazers parted ways with strength and conditioning coach Bobby Medina, and athletic trainer Jay Jensen; the former, on staff since 1997, the latter since 1994. Jensen took a lot of criticism for the career altering conditions of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden—despite not being the mystical shaman necessary to prevent such injuries. Regardless, Portland cleaned house to find a clean slate.
In June, the Blazers hired Dr. Christopher Stackpole as the Director of Player Health and Performance. He is joined by newcomer, Ben Kenyon, who is to act as a Sports Performance Specialist alongside returning Specialist Todd Forcier. Head Athletic Trainer Geoff Clark (returning for his 15th season) and new Head Athletic Trainer of the Idaho Stampede, Ben Pringle, complete the team.
There have been murmurs of discontent humming from the corners of the internet in light of the Blazers’ nightmarish first week of camp. They are understandable, but not warranted. Minor injuries will pile up. They always do. This is NBA basketball, not competitive deep breathing. So while it is concerning to see five players injured five days in, assigning early blame will only breed further frustration.
Though, at a glance, it would appear that Stackpole has slipped the “preventative maintenance” portion of his job description, take solace in the “rehabilitative health care” bit. The Blazers hired him because he is the very best, and it won’t be long before we see the injured players return to the court at full form. Keep a close eye and have a little faith, because the Portland Trail Blazers are in very capable hands this year.