PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers were severely limited due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols the last time they hosted the Dallas Mavericks. But while the team is currently COVID-free (knock on wood), they won’t have many more available players for their second meeting at Moda Center versus the Mavericks.
Due to various injuries, the Trail Blazers could have as few as 10 players available for the second night of an all-home back-to-back versus Dallas Wednesday night at Moda Center.
Both Damian Lillard (core muscle recovery) and Cody Zeller (right patellar fracture) are out for Wednesday’s game, and the foreseeable future, as they recover from recent surgeries, so those absences come as no surprise. Same goes for Larry Nance Jr., the tallest player Portland had in uniform the last time they hosted Dallas, who has been sidelined since January 5th with what the team describes as “right knee inflammation.” The 6-7 forward/center traveled with the team on their recent six-game road trip, though he did not suit up at any point and we’re still waiting on an update regarding the severity of that injury and when he might return.
However, a number of players who either started or played significant minutes in Tuesday’s loss to the Timberwolves at Moda Center are either out or in jeopardy of missing Wednesday’s game due to new or recently-exacerbated injuries.
Nassir Little, who has started in his last 21 appearances and 23 games overall this season, will sit out Wednesday’s game with a left shoulder strain, an injury sustained in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 109-107 loss to Minnesota. Little suffered the injury when his arm got pulled back while battling with Karl-Anthony Towns for a rebound. The 6-5 guard/forward looked to be in considerable pain after the play, heading straight to the locker room after timeout was called.
“I went up for the rebound, my arm was extended and Kat, he just tried to rip the ball down and my arm was caught up in there,” said Little. “I just got it strained a little bit and it was hurting a lot initially, but after I kind of moved my arm around I realized I was all right and that I was being a little bit of a drama queen.”
The team medical staff evidently didn’t agree with Little’s “drama queen” assessment, as the decision was made to hold him out of Wednesday’s game. His status going forward is still to be determined.
Then there’s Robert Covington, who suffered a grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee in the second half of Tuesday’s loss. Covington who returned to the starting lineup with Nance sidelined, played 37 minutes in Tuesday’s game, going 3-of-11 from the field for eight points, six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 37 minutes. His status for the upcoming four-game road trip is not yet known, though the standard recovery time for a grade 1 MCL sprain is as short as a few days and rarely longer than a few weeks.
As for Dennis Smith Jr., he is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game with a right ankle sprain. The injury has been listed on Portland’s report since January 18, though Smith has yet to miss a game because of it.
It seems likely that Norman Powell, who came off the bench in Tuesday’s game after missing the previous eight contests, first due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols and then personal reasons, will return to the starting lineup in place of Little. Who will start in place of Covington is a bit tougher to figure and will likely come down to whether Chauncey Billups opts for size -- in that case, Trendon Watford or Greg Brown III would make the most sense -- or experience -- in which Tony Snell or CJ Elleby would likely get the call.
Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ROOT Sports and Rip City Radio 620 AM.