Did the hiatus save the Portland Trail Blazers’ dismal season?

With the pandemic halting the NBA season, it may benefit the struggling Portland Trail Blazers. It could provide healing time and ready the team to compete.

When the NBA suspended the season on March 10, the Portland Trail Blazers were 29-37 and the 9th seed behind the Memphis Grizzlies. In their last 10 games before the season halted, they were 4-6.

COVID-19. Novel coronavirus pandemic. Saviour?

The first two names describe the unprecedented disease that has overcome the world.

The last one is the same unprecedented disease that has possibly saved the Blazer’s dismal season.

The Blazers have struggled to win consistently and stay in playoff contention. The trade of defensive wing players Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu and the injuries of Zach Collins, Rodney Hood, and Jusuf Nurkic negatively affected the team’s ability to win games.

Blazers superstar Damian Lillard also missed time because of injury. In February, before the season postponement, Lillard missed six games because of a groin injury.  In an interview with sportscaster Ernie Johnson on April 8, Lillard said that it felt like ‘a year’ since he played because of the season suspension and missed games. The five-time All-Star chose not to play in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game on February 16 in Chicago because of his injury.

Although COVID-19 has paused the NBA, it has also given athletes time to rehabilitate from injuries. If play continues, many players like Ben Simmons, Gordon Hayward and Giannis Antetokounmpo could be ready to play.

Lillard is healthy and ready to play again. As of April 30, Collins, Hood and Nurkic are still listed as “out” for the season but Nurkic could return after missing nearly a year if the season resumes. ESPN reports the majority of high-level officials across the NBA are “encouraged” and “optimistic” basketball will return this season.

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If the season does not continue, the Blazers could return to the 2020-21 NBA season with a fully healthy roster and a chance to compete for a championship. Lillard said he’d been using the respite time to prepare for next season if play couldn’t resume. The pandemic could benefit the Blazers.

If the season commences, Lillard is optimistic about making the playoffs. He said the last 15-16 games of the Blazers’ schedule are easier than the Grizzlies’ schedule and that the Blazers deserve a chance to play to see what happens.

“If we’re going to come back, let’s come back and do it.” Lillard said of Blazers competing for the playoffs. “We’re already going to be further along in the year than we would’ve been. It’s only right to play it out.”

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