Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard had just returned from a four-game absence with a calf strain, but in Saturday’s loss to the Utah Jazz, he aggravated the injury and left the game in the second half. After the game, Lillard had an MRI and revealed a first-degree soleus sprain in his right calf. Blazers Announced on Sunday. It will be re-evaluated in one to two weeks.
Lillard missed most of last season with a stomach injury, but this season he’s come back and he’s played mostly well. Prior to Saturday’s ugly 2-of-14 performance, Lillard was averaging 27.6 points and seven assists per game for the surprisingly successful Blazers. With a 10-6 record, the Blazers are third in the Western Conference, having missed the playoff season back.
With Lillard gone, the Blazers will now have to rely more on fourth-year quarterback Anferni Simons and off-season acquisition Jerami Grant to build up the offense. Simons, who just signed a $100 million deal this offseason, is averaging 22.5 points per game for the Blazers, while Grant, a future free agent, is not far behind at 19.7. Lottery pick Schaedon Sharpe, who shone with brilliance in a limited role, should also get more options after Lillard’s departure.
Lillard turned 32 during the offseason. Injuries at this age are more difficult to deal with. It’s important for the Blazers to keep him healthy through the spring, so if that means missing games in the interim, so be it.