Portland Trail Blazers center Joel Freeland has been sidelined with an MCL sprain since February 11th. He is nearly three weeks into his 4-8 week timetable for return, but, unfortunately, he has not yet recovered to a point of noteworthy improvement. The good news is that he is pain free. The bad news is that he was pain free two weeks ago and has not regained much stability in his knee since then.
“I’m feeling OK, still taking it day-by-day. I still don’t have any pain in it, it’s just the fact that it’s still really unstable inside. If I catch my toe or something, I feel the knee open up. I’m just waiting for that to strengthen up, and hopefully I’ll be ready soon. It’s just pretty frustrating at the moment.’’ –via Jason Quick, Oregonian
The latest that Freeland could return to action within the parameters of his initial timetable is April 9th, with four games remaining in the regular season. The Trail Blazers could essentially be without him until the playoffs. Freeland’s frustration is understandable. He has worked incredibly hard to be a contributor this season, even skipping Euro League play to focus on his role in Portland last Summer, and now he has reverted to spectatorship.
Meanwhile, Meyers Leonard has been reinserted in the backup center position—a position that Freeland won from him all the way back in October. I’m sure each member of the Trail Blazers is pulling for team success, but it can’t be easy for Freeland to watch his younger, taller, faster competitor challenge his job security. It’s healthy competition, but bittersweet nonetheless.
It seems as if Freeland will miss the four week mark. Thankfully, Portland’s depleted frontcourt is on the mend. LaMarcus Aldridge and Leonard were able to return on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets, and Thomas Robinson’s knee injury is not terribly serious. The Trail Blazers’ weak defense will remain weakened without Freeland, but it’s not the end of the world. Freeland will have to remain patient for at least a few more weeks.