Festus Ezeli: Long-Term Health Is At Stake

Festus Ezeli hasn’t made a final decision about season-ending knee surgery, but adds that it might be necessary to save his NBA career. In an interview posted on the Trail Blazers’ website, Ezeli discusses the condition of his knee and admits that it may have been a mistake to rush back to play for the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

“You don’t think twice about making those decisions,” he said. “We were in the Finals and we had a historic season, so for me to be able to contribute to my team getting to the Finals and possibly winning the championship, I’ll make that decision every time because you never know when you’re going to get back to the Finals. But that’s a decision that I’m paying for right now, so we’re going to correct it and we’ll be better for it.”

Golden State chose not to re-sign Ezeli as a way of opening up cap room to add Kevin Durant. The 27-year-old center agreed to a two-year deal topping $15MM with Portland, but the balky left knee has kept him off the court. He underwent an operation over the summer, but apart from a couple of practices in mid-October, Ezeli hasn’t played at all for the Blazers.

“I’m kind of past the point of frustration because at first it was — I’m not going to lie, it definitely was,” he said. “I’m at the point where I’m just trying to find a solution. The sooner I can, the sooner I can get on the court and help my team win games. I just can’t wait to get on the court, that’s my biggest thing. I miss basketball, I haven’t played basketball in a while, so that’s my biggest thing right now.”

Ezeli remains optimistic about an eventual return, even if he opts for surgery again and this becomes a lost season. He and the team are consulting several doctors and trying to determine his best option. He continues to go through rehab and is working to strengthen his legs, but the knee remains painful and eventually will have to be addressed.

He has another year left on his contract, but only $1MM of his $7.733 salary for next season is guaranteed through June 30, meaning the Blazers could waive him this summer at a minimal cost if they don’t see improvement in his health. Ezeli is hoping to get the knee structurally sound before the team faces that decision.

“I’ve had lingering issues for a while and I want to address them now because I’m at a crossroads at this point where my long term health is at stake,” he said. “I love this team, I love what I’m doing here, I want to continue what I’m doing. I want to give them my 100 percent, I want to be able to get out on the court and be able to affect the game. When I can do that, I will be out there on the court. Right now I can’t, so I’m just going to keep working my best way and try to figure out the best way to get on the court.”

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