MARCH 8, 11:32am: Ezeli has undergone surgery on his left knee and has been officially ruled out for the remained of the 2016/17 season, the Trail Blazers announced today in a press release.
MARCH 4, 10:01pm: A cadaver donor will be used in Ezeli’s surgery, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Ezeli had been awaiting a donor for months, but because he is 6’11” it wasn’t easy to find a match.
A doctor recently submitted the name of a potential donor, and the surgery has been set for an undetermined day next week. Ezeli is believed to be the first NBA player ever to rely on a cadaver donor for an operation.
Haynes notes that NFL quarterback Carson Palmer had a cadaver donor when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the 2006 playoffs. Palmer was able to return to the field for the start of the following season.
Ezeli’s recovery time is projected to be much longer, with one source saying it could take up to a year.
6:05pm: Festus Ezeli will undergo surgery next week to fix his left knee, the Trail Blazers posted on their website.
President of basketball operations Neil Olshey made the announcement, saying Ezeli’s operation will be performed by Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado.
Ezeli hasn’t played this season after signing a two-year, $15MM deal with Portland last summer. He had offseason surgery on the knee, but it started hurting again early in training camp. He announced in December that he was considering another operation because he believes his long-term health is at stake.
Ezeli’s contract creates the possibility that he will never play a game for the Blazers. He is owed $7.73MM for 2017/18, but only $1MM of that is guaranteed through the end of June. With the Blazers possibly looking at luxury tax payments next season, Ezeli’s deal seems like a good way to save money, either by waiving him or trading him. Portland reportedly tried hard to find a taker for Ezeli before last week’s trade deadline.
The 26-year-old center is in his fourth NBA season. He averaged 4.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game during three years in Golden State.