The news broke Thursday morning that Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the team leader in points and rebounds, would only miss two games after taking a brutal looking fall in the third quarter during Wednesday’s game against the Spurs. After seeing it happen live, I was relieved to hear this.
Injury problems have haunted Portland for years. No fan will forget the Greg Oden story. The number one pick that was supposed to complete the puzzle for a promising young team, but only managed to play 82 out of 328 games. The career of Brandon Roy, Rookie of the Year and All-Star, was also cut short due to injury problems. Seeing Aldridge go down that way brought back some memories for Blazer fans.
It is difficult to tell what sort of impact this injury will have. Two games isn't a long time, but given Portland's recent slide in the standings, the next two games are vital. The schedule is much easier going forward, but Sunday's home game against Golden State is critical. The Warriors are just one and half games back of the Blazers and have won four of their last five games. Not having Aldridge will make that game extremely difficult. Golden State is a hard-nosed team that ranks in the top five in rebounding and the top ten in points allowed. Portland struggles against physical teams; the only team in the West they have not beaten is Memphis, who is famous for its defensive prowess.
The injury to Mo Williams, the leading scorer off the bench, also hurts. Portland's bench has improved from last season, but is still one of the biggest weaknesses on the team. Being a skilled ball handler, his presence allowed for unique lineups that will be missed for the two weeks he is out.
It is safe to say the dream of the Blazers getting a top seed in the Western Conference is over. Teams like Houston and the Clippers started the season off slow, but are now ahead of Portland in the standings. Expectations for this team became huge after posting a 24-5 record through Christmas. In the preseason that record was unfathomable. An eight seed come playoff time would have been a surprise to some.
Portland still has a chance to win a playoff series, something this franchise hasn't done since 2003. The air surrounding this team right now is negative after four straight losses, and these new injuries don't help matters. Just keep in mind that no one expected this team to be where they are. Right now we should take solace in knowing our superstar player is going to be fine, a luxury Blazer fans have not had in the past.