Portland Trail Blazers backup center Joel Freeland is no longer targeting a return during the regular season. His rehabilitation from a sprained MCL is going much slower than he would like and he still cannot push 100 percent when moving laterally. He is, however, hoping to return in the post-season.
“I’m pointing for the playoffs. Any time before that is pretty much out of reach. I’ll just have to see when it starts to feel better.”
– Via Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune
Tomorrow is the 8 week mark in his recovery; the tail end of his original 4-8 week timetable. Portland’s final game of the season is April 16th against the Los Angeles Clippers, so we can safely assume that Freeland anticipates at least another week or two of recuperation.
Having clinched a playoff berth just last night, there is no need for the Trail Blazers to pressure him, but jumping into a playoff series with 2+ months of rust is far from ideal. If Freeland is not ready to go by the time the playoffs start, don’t expect him to be meaningfully added in partway through.
Not entirely coincidentally, the Trail Blazers were 36-15 before Freeland sprained his MCL, and are 14-13 since. He is a big part of Portland’s team success and is their best defender off the bench. Averaging just 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, he exemplifies the relevance of statistical intangibles.
Freeland is working out and getting shots up every day, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. He’s not a shooter. As a defensive player, until he can comfortably move side-to-side, he might as well be back at square one. The “looseness” in the joint that Freeland describes does not inspire confidence.
If I had to guess, I’d say we won’t see Freeland play again until this summer, though far be it from me to rule out a few scraps in the playoffs; especially if the Trail Blazers advance.