After suffering a left knee injury over the weekend, C.J. McCollum is expected to be re-evaluated this Saturday. However, Damian Lillard told reporters last night that he’s not necessarily counting on his backcourt mate to be back anytime soon.
As Jason Quick of The Athletic relays (via Twitter), Lillard wants McCollum to get back to 100% before he returns and is mentally preparing for him to miss the rest of the regular season.
“I don’t want him to have to rush it. And when he does come back, I want him to be himself and be healthy,” Lillard said, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). “So, in my mind, we’re going to finish the regular season without him.”
The Trail Blazers remain in a tight race for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Currently, the team holds the No. 4 seed, with a 1.5-game cushion over the Spurs and Thunder and a two-game lead over Utah.
While Portland would certainly like to have McCollum back in its lineup as soon as possible to secure a top-four spot in the conference, it makes more sense to hold him out until he’s fully healthy — especially since the team’s schedule isn’t particularly brutal down the stretch. Outside of two games vs. Denver and two vs. Detroit, the Blazers don’t face any opponents above .500 the rest of the way.
Perhaps the ideal outcome for the Blazers would be to get McCollum back a few games before the end of the regular season. That could allow him to shake off the rust before the playoffs begin while potentially returning in time for what could be a crucial home-and-home set against the Nuggets on April 5 and April 7. We’ll have to wait to see how McCollum’s recovery progresses, however.