Storyline: Damian Lillard Injury

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Star point guard Damian Lillard rolled his left ankle in the fourth quarter and later had to be carted from the locker room to the team bus following the Blazers’ 115-109 loss to the lowly Mavericks at American Airlines Center. With about five minutes left in Tuesday’s game, Lillard jumped to make a pass in the lane and landed on the foot of Dallas center Sal Mejri. His ankle rolled with all his weight on it. He played the final five minutes of the game with a slight hobble, but he said once the game ended, more pain and swelling rushed to the ankle.

“It feels way better, I went through a full speed workout with no limitations,” said Lillard after Saturday’s practice in Minneapolis. “I would have did our stuff with the group where we did some defensive stuff against a shell, not really full contact. I would have did that but I didn’t want to get in the way of any of the guys that’s going to be playing, so I stayed out of that. I did the shooting stuff before we did that, I did my own little workout at the end for the last 20 minutes or so, full speed normal stuff. It felt pretty good. Some stuff, it didn’t hurt but I wasn’t really comfortable with it. It wasn’t completely comfortable, so just going to keep working out and keep working that swelling out, that soreness out, trying to get back. I’m not going to rush it, at this point I might as well wait until completely ready to go.”

As of right now, Lillard doesn’t sound like he’s still fully comfortable. Stiffness in the foot, after nearly two weeks of stretching and massages to get the foot right, and conditioning, more than soreness, are his main concerns. “I’m building my wind back,” Lillard said. “It’s just a little bit of stiffness because I haven’t made certain movements. For five years now I’ve been constantly doing this stuff every day. But two weeks of just stretches, massages and stuff like that. If I get back there it’s going to be a little stiff.”

Lillard said that he also worked out hard on the foot in a New Year’s evening workout with assistant coach David Vanterpool and guard Tim Frazier. “I’ve been working out hard on the court for a couple of days,” Lillard said. “Last night I came in and worked out hard on it. This is the second time I’ve practiced even though (this one had) more contact. It’s more about being on the floor. I haven’t played in almost two weeks now. I’m not just going to get out there a few times and bring something to the game.”

At this point, Lillard said, he’s more concerned with regaining his playing stamina, which has taken a hit during his 11-day absence. Lillard said he will evaluate how his foot responds Sunday morning, test it during a morning shootaround and then make a pregame decision about whether he’ll play when the Blazers visit the Denver Nuggets at 6 p.m. He said he would prefer not to be on a minutes-restriction whenever he returns and coach Terry Stotts said that will be decided by Lillard and the Blazers’ medical staff. Could Lillard have played Thursday, when the Blazers lost to Utah? Probably. But he wants to make sure when he returns, he returns for good. “Once I’m back, I’m back,” he said.

After missing the last four games and possibly more, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has a new nickname. “Coach Lillard, that’s what they call me now,” Lillard said following Tuesday’s practice where the two-time All-Star said he participated in some “live” drills but was still not a full participant. Whether Lillard has to embrace the suit and chatting up referees during timeouts instead of throughout the entire game is still an uncertain matter. The pain from an ongoing battle with plantar fasciitis is gone in his left foot, but Lillard is still waiting for the comfort to return. “It’s just a little bit stiff,” Lillard said after running on the left foot. “I haven’t played on it. I have been so busy trying to take care of it and do the right stuff that it’s a little bit stiff.”
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