Lillard To Miss All-Star Game With Injury But Vows That 'I'm Not Gonna Go Away'

by Casey Holdahl
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The 2019-20 season has been rather cruel to the Portland Trail Blazers with regard to injury, and in their last game before the All-Star break, that cruelty ticked up another notch.

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard suffered a right groin strain in the fourth quarter of Portland’s 111-104 loss to the Grizzlies at FexEd Forum Thursday night.

The injury occurred with 3:22 to play in the fourth quarter and with the Blazers trailing the Grizzlies 106-94. Lillard drove down the lane where he was met by Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas. Valciunas blocked Lillard's layup attempt, but as the 6-3 guard landed, he immediately grabbed his right groin. Initially, it was though that perhaps Lillard had take a shot to the midsection, though replays showed there was no contact.

"When it happened, I just felt it," said Lillard, who finished the game with 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in 37 minutes. "I knew I pulled it, it made no sense to be out there for the last few minutes of the game and risk trying to play through it and making it worse. But I walked off the court just fine even though it was like, a little bit painful. I came in and it was strong when they was making me go against resistance and stuff like that. It was strong, wasn't like, weak and I couldn't do stuff. That was all I needed to know."

Lillard said he will still travel to Chicago, where the 2020 All-Star festivities are being held, though he will not participate in either the All-Star Game -- he was selected by the coaches as a reserve and was "drafted" to play for Team LeBron James -- nor the three-point contest as previously scheduled.

"Obviously that's something that you look forward to, those festivities and having fun, but my health is first and I knew right away that wasn't going to happen," said Lillard. "I'll still be there and be a part of it but I'm not going to be able to play. So hopefully somebody who should have been there who didn't make it (will go). Unfortunately, I had to be the fall guy, but hopefully Devin Booker or somebody like that will get the spot."

While Lillard is a scratch for the competitive portions of All-Star Weekend, he was adamant that, with over a week of inactivity afforded by the All-Star break, that he would be able to return sooner rather than later. The Trail Blazers are currently four games behind the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 26 games to play.

"It's a long way to go, we've got a lot of home games, we've got a lot of winnable games," said Lillard. "Just know that I'm not gonna go away... After this break is over, it's on."

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