Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will once again be sidelined as the team squares off with the Charlotte Bobcats this afternoon. This marks his 5th consecutive absence as he recovers from a lower back contusion. There have been no updates regarding his return to action, but it is disconcerting that Aldridge has yet to practice with the team. He has, however, resumed limited shooting.
This comes as a predictable blow, since Bobcats center Al Jefferson has been an absolute offensive juggernaut this year. Jefferson has quietly averaged 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, leading the Bobcats in both categories by a wide margin. Aldridge may not be known as a defensive stopper, but he’s more capable of helping Robin Lopez contain Jefferson than Dorell Wright is.
Speaking of, Wright is anticipated to continue starting while Aldridge recovers. He has proven to be a reliable scorer and willing passer in the Trail Blazers’ small-ball lineup. He has posted double-digit points in four of the five games Aldridge has missed (if you include San Antonio, when Aldridge sustained the injury). May his pump fakes be forever bitten on, and his swing passes remain unstolen.
The Trail Blazers have adjusted admirably to the loss of their best player, but they need him back as soon as possible. They face the Miami Heat in Miami on Monday. Though the Heat have lost 6 of their last 10 games, they’re still atop this league in the talent department. Last time they met in Portland, the Heat dropped the Trail Blazers on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater from Chris Bosh, and 4x MVP LeBron James didn’t even play. How do you think the tables would turn in their homecourt, with James back, and Aldridge out?
I have no doubts that Aldridge will be at least 95% by the NBA playoffs, but at what percentage of health will he return to Portland’s lineup? 75%? 85%? It would seem his back injury was more severe than had been hoped for. Your star player doesn’t miss five games during a heated race for post-season homecourt advantage unless he’s in no shape to take the court. Caution on the team’s part factors in, but the lack of progress updates does not bode well for an imminent return to action.