Damian Lillard Discusses Surgery, Possible Return

Damian Lillard isn’t sure when he might be able to start playing again, but he won’t try to return until he’s fully healed from last week’s abdominal surgery, writes Anne M. Peterson of The Associated Press. The Trail Blazers guard provided an update on his condition today in his first press conference since deciding to have the operation to address his abdominal tendinopathy.

“I’m just a week from surgery,” he responded when asked about a timeline for returning. “We said we’ll re-evaluate my situation weeks out, six to eight weeks, and we’ll talk about it then. But I’m not in a rush. My number one goal is to win a championship. I’ve got to be in the best form of myself to make that happen and to be a part of that. So I’m not in a rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to that point.”

Lillard has been dealing with abdominal pain for years, but the condition became particularly acute at the Summer Olympics. He rested for a few weeks before training camp, but said the pain returned when he started playing regularly again. Lillard’s Olympic teammate, Jrue Holiday, who underwent a core operation during the 2018/19 season, suggested the need for surgery while they were together in Tokyo.

“He was the first person that pretty much confirmed that I needed to have surgery because I sat out of practice one day and I was like, ‘I can’t move,’ and I was kind of just holding it. And he just started describing every single symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like ‘I had it.’”

The uncertainty surrounding Lillard puts Portland in a difficult position with the trade deadline just 19 days away. At 19-26, the Blazers are clinging to the last play-in spot in the West and they face decisions on whether to try to move Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts, or to try to deal Lillard’s long-time backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, who has two more seasons and more than $69MM left on his contract.

Lillard indicated that he would be less likely to attempt to return this season if Portland’s front office decides to trade some of its core players and hope for success in the lottery.

“I mean, if we’re gonna play for a draft pick it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not gonna play for no draft pick. I’m just not capable of that,” he said. “So it’d be best if that was what we were doing, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”

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