Storyline: Festus Ezeli Injury

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Ezeli never played in his first season with the Blazers. He had cadaver ligament replacement surgery on his left knee on March 7. The 6-foot-11, 265-pounder has not been told who the donor was, but through his doctor he can give a letter to the family, who can then decide whether they want to meet him. Ezeli is hopeful they will want to after he gives the letter to his doctor during a follow-up appointment on May 7. “I’m actually working on my letter right now because I really do want to meet them,” Ezeli told The Undefeated this past week. “I have no clue who I got it from. It had to be a big person. There are so many different requirements to getting the cadaver. It was kind of crazy. It had to be a big person, about my weight and size, so that I could handle my weight as I play basketball. The person had to be young so it’s not brittle. And there’s all these different restrictions.

Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli is expected to undergo surgery next week on his left knee, it was announced today by Neil Olshey, president of basketball operations. While the exact surgery date is pending, it will be performed by Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. Ezeli will be out for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.

Are you at all optimistic about it? Festus Ezeli: I’m very optimistic. At the end of the day, I’m going to work my way to get back no matter what the rehab protocol entails. I just, I’ve done it a couple times now to where I can’t take shortcuts anymore. I’ve tried to take shortcuts in the past to try to get back on the court as soon as I could but at this point now, I have to address this issue that’s kind of getting worse, especially now that I can correct it instead of waiting until later.

You mentioned shortcuts. Do you feel, particularly last year, that you came back to fast? Festus Ezeli: Well, I did come back fast last year and that hurt me a little bit. But that’s a decision that you don’t think twice about making those decisions. 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. I will be better for it.

Marc J. Spears: Blazers center Festus Ezeli statement to @espn @theundefeated: “Everyone has moments of setback. It’s unfortunate and disappointing that I am facing one of those right now. My aim is to fundamentally address issues that have lingered so that I can be the best that I can be, to help my team contend for and win the title. To all concerned I assure this, my love for the game nothing but ensures that I will be back better and stronger than ever and you can take that to the bank.”

Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli last month suffered a minor setback in his comeback from a left knee procedure, CSNNW.com has learned. Ezeli suffered swelling in his left knee after he took part in two Blazers practices on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18, after which the Blazers have pulled back on his activity. “I practiced, and that’s what happens sometimes – it reacts, swells up, you go back, regress and come back,’’ Ezeli said Tuesday night before the Blazers game with Phoenix.

“It’s going to be slow,’’ he said of his recovery. “It is slow. But hopefully rewarding at the end.’’ The Blazers have not put a timetable on his return, but the front office has been clear since the summer that Ezeli was signed more for the spring than the winter. Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, signed the 6-foot-11 Ezeli to a two-year, $15 million contract, with only $7 million and the first year guaranteed. Then asked during training camp if fans should be patient with Ezeli’s return, Olshey was emphatic. “They better be,’’ Olshey said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t. There has to be a reality to Festus and the contract he signed. We are going to be patient with Festus … we saw what he can do in the Golden State series last season. But he’s going to take a little bit of time.’’

Festus Ezeli, who underwent a procedure on his left knee in August, is still not close to a return. “We’re taking it day by day,” said the 6-11 center, who signed a two-year, $15-million free-agent contract with Portland in July. “I’ve had some ups and downs.” Ezeli was recently given clearance to begin shooting drills, but has not yet participated in any 3-on-3 activity. “There’s no timetable (for a return) when it comes to this stuff,” he said. “It goes by feel. Some days I feel good. There are good days and bad days, but there’s progress overall.”

Unfortunately, one of their acquisitions, big man Festus Ezeli, is expected to miss all of training camp and most of the preseason after having his left knee injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate to alleviate pain in late August. “I personally don’t have a timeline,” Ezeli said while visiting at a Boys and Girls Club in North Portland on Thursday. “I’m taking it day by day because when it comes to this situation, you never go with a timeline. It will frustrate me if I go by a timeline. I just try to take it by how I feel so hopefully sometime soon I can get back on the court and start playing again.”
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