Damian Lillard, happy to ‘make decisions that work for you in the long run’, slowly returns to Portland Trail Blazers roster

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During the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when Damian Lillard’s abdominal injury erupted, Jrue Holiday suggested it was time for surgery.

Lillard eventually took his fellow Olympian’s advice and underwent the procedure on January 13. The Portland Trail Blazers star point guard spoke to reporters on Saturday for the first time since injury sidelined him Jan. 3.

Holiday, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, underwent similar surgery during the 2018-19 NBA season when he was in New Orleans. He and Lillard were teammates in Japan last summer on the gold medal-winning USA team.

“He was the first person to pretty much confirm that I needed surgery, because I sat down outside of training one day and was like, ‘I can’t move. “And I kind of held him. And he just started describing every symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like, ‘I got it.'”

Lillard, a six-time All-Star, has averaged 24 points and 7.3 assists in 29 games this season for the Blazers. It was clear from the start that the injury – lower abdominal tendinopathy – was troublesome.

“It was just one of those things where I always had control over how I moved and everything, and I had reached a point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do and go where I wanted to. go, he said. “At some point you have to play chess; you need to make decisions that are right for you in the long run and not just now.”

As the injury erupted in Tokyo, Lillard said he first felt the abdominal pain in 2015, and has since gotten progressively worse.

The Blazers have struggled without Lillard, the team’s undisputed leader. Playing under freshman coach Chauncey Billups, Portland is 19-26 and sits 10th in the Western Conference.

Anfernee Simons took over as Portland’s point guard and averaged 15.1 points per game. Portland also played for a long time without Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who had a collapsed right lung before becoming a father for the first time.

McCollum recently returned and had 24 points in Portland’s 109-105 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

There was no timetable for Lillard’s return, but he has done yoga before. The team previously said he would be reassessed in six weeks.

“I’m only a week away from surgery. We said we’ll reassess my situation in weeks, six to eight weeks, and then we’ll talk about it. But I’m in no rush,” he said. declared. “My #1 goal is to win a championship. I have to be in the best shape of myself to get there and be part of it. So I’m in no rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to this point.”

The Trail Blazers, as play began Saturday night, were in 10th place in the Western Conference race. They were two games ahead of the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard was asked if he would play if the Blazers decided to forego a playoff push and play for a draft pick.

“I mean, if we’re going to play for a draft pick, it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not going to play for any draft pick. I just can’t do it,” he said. -he declares. “So it would be better if that was what we did, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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