Damian Lillard to miss Portland Trail Blazers’ upcoming six-game road trip, possibly rest of season
According to Casey Holdahl, Damian Lillard will not be joining the Portland Trail Blazers on their upcoming six-game road trip that stretches from the Midwest down to Florida and up to Canada. This emphasizes Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report‘s theory that fans may have already seen the last of Dame this season.
With Lillard’s abdominal injury constantly reaggravating and keeping him limited, along with the Trail Blazers’ current 15-24 record, it makes sense to shut Dame down for the rest of the season. This will allow Interim General Manager Joe Cronin to shift focus onto 2022-2023 and cleaning up Neil Olshey’s mess he left behind, in hopes of retooling to maximize the remainder of Lillard’s prime.
With their All-NBA point guard on the sidelines, Portland sheds the crushing weight of their previous playoff aspirations, frees up playing time for their young guns and projects, and creates more opportunity for players either hoping to keep their spot in the Cronin era or increase their trade values in hopes of being shipped off to a contender.
Portland also only keeps their pick if they miss the playoffs, and with $102 million of next year’s $119 million salary cap allotted to just four players, they’ll need to find some help outside of the free agent market.
The biggest winners, in this case, would be Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington, who with their expiring contracts will likely be dealt to contenders, and Anfernee Simons, who will have additional minutes to earn a batch of lucrative offers as a restricted free agent this summer.
Ben McLemore and Dennis Smith, Jr., both on expiring minimum deals, probably wouldn’t be too disappointed with some more opportunities to earn either a spot with the Blazers for next year or a multi-year offer from elsewhere.
And while confirmation will have to wait until Lillard gets his examination results, all signs are pointing to a shutdown and the Blazers becoming the next contestant in NBA Tankapalooza 2022.