Lillard To Meet With Specialists And Will Not Travel On Trip, Powell Enters Health and Safety Protocols

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Just when the Trail Blazers think they’re out of health and safety protocols, COVID pulls them back in.

After finally getting all of their players COVID-free in time for last Friday’s loss to the Heat after a two week stretch that saw 11 players and four coaches test positive, the team announced prior to Sunday’s contest versus the Kings that Norman Powell has entered health and safety protocols.

The Trail Blazers are down to four guards -- Anferenee Simons, Dennis Smith Jr., Ben McLemore and CJ Elleby -- with Powell joining Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy), CJ McCollum (right lung pneumothorax) and Larry Nance Jr. (right knee inflammation) as out for Sunday’s game. Ben McLemore will get the start alongside Simons in place of Powell.

Unless his results were the product of a “false positive” test, Powell will miss Monday’s contest versus the Nets, a game that was postponed due to Brooklyn not having enough healthy players available, and likely Thursday’s game versus the Nuggets in Denver. Given the timing, it seems likely that Powell will meet up with the team when he’s able to clear health and safety protocols at some point during their upcoming seven-game road trip.

But while Powell could very likely play at some point on the trip that starts in Denver and ends 11 days later in Toronto, it does not sound as though that will be the case for Lillard.

According to head coach Chauncey Billups, Lillard will not travel with the team on their upcoming, as he will spend that time meeting with specialists in an effort to find a solution to the abdomen issue that has limited his effectiveness and forced him to miss nine games this season. Lillard has been playing through what the team medical staff has diagnosed as “abdominal tendinopathy” the last few seasons, though there is little doubt the injury has worsened this season to a point where he’s no longer able to endure while also playing at an All-Star caliber level.

He looked closer to form than he had at any point this season after receiving a cortisone injection last month -- he averaged 29.6 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from three, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in the month of December -- though the relief from that treatment was temporary.

The 6-3 guard in his 10th season out of Weber State hasn’t played since Portland’s 139-106 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve and will presumably miss the next eight games unless he joins the team at some point on their six-game trip.

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