Freeland Out For Four To Eight Weeks With Sprained MCL

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers will be without one of their key bench players for at least the next month after reserve power forward/center Joel Freeland sprained his right MCL in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s loss to the Thunder at the Moda Center.

Freeland’s knee buckled while he was fighting for position with two minutes to play in the first quarter. He was helped off the floor by his teammates

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and did not put weight on his right leg as he exited the court. An MRI would reveal an MCL sprain to his right knee, which is expected to keep the second-year Englishman sidelined anywhere between four and eight weeks.

After struggling through a tough rookie season last year, Freeland has been one of Terry Stotts’ most reliable bench players with averages of 3.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 13.9 minutes in 51 games this season. Fellow second-year players Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard are likely to pick up Freeland’s minutes until he is able to return.


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Practice Report: Vonleh Questionable, Henderson Rising And Wrapping Up The Homestand

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

The Portland Trail Blazers held a light practice Wednesday afternoon at their facility in Tualatin in preparation for Thursday night’s game versus the Toronto Raptors at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7 pm on KGW and Rip City Radio 620 AM).

• Second-year forward Noah Vonleh, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s win versus the Bucks, did not practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Friday’s game versus the Raptors. The 6-9 forward in his second season out of Indiana has started the last 39 games and is averaging 3.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game this season. His playing time had been on the uptick — he averaged 18.3 minutes per game in January after averaging 15.8 and 14.6 minutes per game in December and November, respectively — though it is possible that trend reverses depending on the severity of the injury.

As is often the case, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts declined to say who would start in the event that Vonleh is unable to play Thursday night, though one assumes that Meyers Leonard, whose shoulder injury early in the season allowed Vonleh to move into the starting five, would be the likely replacement. The one caveat is that Portland’s bench has played so well recently that Stotts might opt to replace Vonleh with someone currently out of the rotation — think Allen Crabbe starting in place of Wesley Matthews last season — in order to preserve that momentum.

“The bench has played well but it hasn’t always been the same lineups out there, especially in the second half,” said Stotts. “Certainly those guys playing together and having the rhythm of a rotation has helped.”

While it won’t be known whether Vonleh plays or who will replace him if he doesn’t until closer to tipoff, what is known is that the Trail Blazers have more options to look to on the bench than they’ve had in recent seasons.

“I think, so far this season, every time somebody has gone down, including myself, the next man has been ready to step up,” said Damian Lillard. “That’s why guys come in and prepare themselves. Obviously it will be different because Noah has gotten a lot better for us but I think the next man will step in ready. Guys just have to be ready and hopefully he’ll be healthy enough to play.”

• One of the biggest boosts to Portland’s bench during their recent five-game winning streak has been the play of Gerald Henderson. The 6-5 guard in his seventh season out of Duke is averaging 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22.6 minutes in the last five games, which is roughly five minutes more than he’s averaged per game this season.

“(Henderson) looks very comfortable playing the game,” said Terry Stotts. “Since his minutes have increased I think he’s letting the game come to him but he’s being aggressive when he has the opportunity, playing with some confidence. I think he’s adapted probably more since he knows he’s going to be out there a little bit longer, I think he’s adapted to our offense a little bit better as well. And defensively, I think the last two games in particular, he’s been very good defensively.”

Henderson had been splitting time with Maurice Harkless and the ninth and tenth men in Stotts’ rotation, but over the last five games, Stotts has opted to increase Henderson’s minutes while playing Harkless just seven minutes combined during that stretch.

“He and Moe, it’s been difficult for both of them through the course of the season playing in the first half, not knowing if you’re going to play in the second half,” said Stotts. “It’s been a difficult situation for both of them, so making the decision just to give Gerald those minutes and it’s worked out well and we go from there.”

It’s possible that Harkless, who is averaging 16.6 minutes in 48 appearances this season, will have a chance to reclaim some playing time, especially if Vonleh is unable to play due to a sprained left ankle, but it won’t come at the expense of Henderson’s hard-earned minutes.

“It’s difficult for Moe not getting in because he’s been a part of what we’ve been doing all year,” said Stotts. “With Noah possibly being out he’s going to have to be ready because that opens up some minutes, but it’s a zero-sum game, 240 minutes. So somebody else’s opportunity comes at the expense of somebody else.”

• The Trail Blazers wrap up a seven-game homestand Thursday versus the Raptors in a game that expects to be tougher test than they’ve enduring during their current five-game winning streak. Toronto has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 33-16 and have won 12 of their last 13 games going into Thursday’s contest.

“A dynamic backcourt, to begin with,” said Stotts of Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. “They’re both All-Stars, they both score the ball really well, they got to the basket, they get to the free throw line. That’s the first challenge. Secondly, they’re very well coached, they’re a good defensive team. You just sense they have a belief in their identity as far as what they have to do to win.”

While the Raptors do boast one of the better backcourt combinations in the NBA, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was quick to point out that Portland’s starting guard combo ain’t too shabby either.

“DeMar is a good friend of mine, I know him pretty well, I know Kyle pretty well,” said Lillard. “They’re All-Stars, both of them are All-Star level players. It’s another challenge for me and CJ (McCollum) on both ends of the floor. I think it’s really important that we take the challenge defensively and go out there and guard those guys physically, be aggressive on them. But also on offense, we’ve got to go at them, just like we’ve done to everybody else. People talk about us having to guard big guards but people have to guard us, too. Nobody seems to mention that. We’re going to take the challenge defensively and we’re going to go after them on offense, too. So it’s going to be a huge game for us.”

Lillard also noted that, while the Raptors are certainly the best team Portland has played since during their soon to be completed homestand, they’re not at the level were they can assume any game is going to be a gimme.

“We aren’t in position to say that anybody isn’t an equal or better opponent,” said Lillard. “I just like how we’ve been locked in, how we’ve competed, we’ve executed offensively, tightened up a lot of things defensively. But going forward we’re going to be playing against some really good teams, especially Toronto tomorrow. Everything that we’ve done we’ve got to take it to even a higher level now.”

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Vonleh Suffers Sprained Left Ankle Versus Bucks

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

PORTLAND — Trail Blazers second-year power forward Noah Vonleh suffered a left ankle sprain in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s 107-95 victory versus the Milwaukee Bucks at the Moda Center. He did not return.

The injury seemed to occurred around the 7:24 mark of the third quarter. After trying to contest a shot, Vonleh landed awkwardly and immediately went to the floor in considerable pain, prompting head coach Terry Stotts to call a timeout in order to sub out the second-year power forward for Ed Davis.

“Khris Middleton was driving the baseline,” said Vonleh. “I went over to help and try to block the shot and I think Greg Monroe, he might have got under me.”

While Vonleh’s left ankle was noticeably swollen postgame, he said an x-ray showed no structural damage.

“They said there were no breaks,” said Vonleh. “It wasn’t nothing major, just a little swelling, it should go down pretty quick.”

Vonleh has played in 49 games this season and is averaging 3.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. He’s started the last 38 games, an opportunity he was afforded due to Meyers Leonard injuring his shoulder early in the season. His status for Thursday night’s game versus the Raptors is to be determined.

Said Vonleh: “I’ve just got to play it by how I feel, see how I feel tomorrow morning.”

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Lillard One ‘Hard Workout’ Away From Potentially Returning

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 month ago

DENVER — The Portland Trail Blazers play their first game of 2016 Sunday night versus the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center (tipoff scheduled for 6 pm on CSNNW and Rip City Radio 620 AM), and with any luck, they’ll start out the new year with a completely healthy roster.

After missing the last six games with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard reiterated after going through shootaround in Denver that he was close to making his return and could very well play in Sunday night’s game.

“Went over our sets, went over the other team’s stuff. All the real active stuff I did, all the shooting, running up and down, all that stuff,” said Lillard. “We’ll see closer to the game.”

Lillard experienced no issues with his left foot after going through a full practice Saturday before the team flew to Denver which, along with going through shootaround, would seem to indicate the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is ready to return to game action. Getting back into game shape after missing the last two weeks is likely the last hurdle Lillard has to clear before returning to the active list, which makes returning Sunday a bit tricky thanks to the thin mile-high air in Denver.

“That’s a lot harder than playing at a home game,” said Lillard on playing at elevation. “I’m going to come out before the game, I’m going to do a hard workout and see how I feel then.”

The Trail Blazers are 3-3 without Lillard in the lineup, which included a 110-103 victory versus the Nuggets at the Moda Center on Dec. 30. He had never missed a game in his NBA career prior to sitting out Portland’s last six contests. And luckily for the Trail Blazers, Sunday’s game is the second night of a back-to-back for the Nuggets, who lost in overtime to the Golden State Warriors in Oakland Saturday night.

While Lillard’s status for Sunday depends on how he feels after that pregame “hard workout,” starting center Mason Plumlee, who missed Saturday’s practice with a bout of gastroenteritis, said that he’s good to go versus the Nuggets after enduring a few days of gastrointestinal distress.

“It came on real quick, out of nowhere,” said Plumlee. “Without giving details, it’s been an ugly, ugly 48 hours, but I feel good now and ready to go.”

As for the Nuggets, power forward Kenneth Faried is listed as questionable with a “cervical injury” suffered Saturday night. Kostas Papanikolau is also doutbful with a left ankle sprain and rookie guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who led the Nuggets to victory versus the Trail Blazers in the last game between the two teams in Denver on Nov. 9, is out with a right ankle sprain.

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