It’s not very common to come down with an injury that’s expected to sideline you for up to two months, but then shake it off and get back on the court a couple of days later. Yet that is what Trailblazers’ star LaMarcus Aldridge has chosen to do, while thrive in the process.
Last week we learned that Aldridge had a radial collateral ligament tear his left thumb and was supposed to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. However, he decided the team needed him down the stretch and he would put off surgery while playing with a splint. Aldridge has said he can play with the pain and he’s willing to take one for the team so to speak.
But is delaying surgery a wise move?
Given that Aldridge is in his ninth season in the NBA and is not some prized, youthful prospect the Blazers have to shield on top of the fact that the team has title aspirations this year, then why not push it as long as he is willing and able?
If his first few games playing with a splint on his thumb are any indication, then Aldridge and the Blazers should be just fine. On Saturday, in his first game back against the Wizards, Aldridge scored 26 points on 9-22 shooting while also hauling down nine rebounds. Then for a follow-up, Aldridge exploded for 38 points while pulling down 11 rebounds on Wednesday against the Cavaliers. So far, so good. Right?
After losing five out of their last six games (with Aldridge missing the last two), Aldridge came back and helped the Trail Blazers get an important win over the Wizards on Saturday to momentarily stop some of the bleeding. It’s just too bad his 38 points on Wednesday was not enough against the Cavaliers, as he and the Trailblazers were outdone by Kyrie Irving’s remarkable 55 points (including a key three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left that put the Cavaliers up three and effectively sealed the win).
Perhaps if this injury occurred in his first two or three seasons in the league, then maybe Portland would be more cautious with Aldridge. However, with a high seed and the Northwest Division title (although they are currently ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder by nine games) on the line, the Trailblazers—who are 32-14 at the moment—are willing to take their chances with Aldridge playing with a bum thumb. With him delaying surgery and if the team has a deep playoff run, Aldridge would have surgery over the summer. If that’s the case, he may not be ready for camp come next fall. That would be the only downside.
However, the Trailblazers have to strike while the iron is hot. This is a team capable of turning the tables and making a run at the NBA Finals. They are clearly pushing their chips to the middle of the table and going all in. You have to admire that kind of bravado.
Aldridge is putting together one of his better seasons and could be an All-Star come February. If you didn’t know, he is averaging 23.3 points (seventh in the NBA) and 10.2 rebounds per game (12th in the NBA), while racking up 20 double-doubles.
With Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews getting it done from the outside, Aldridge getting it done inside and the expected return of Robin Lopez in a few weeks to help stabilize the frontcourt, the Trail Blazers could be set up for a great finish.
A tradeoff between possibly making a run to the finals for Aldridge missing some time next year or re-aggravating his injury is one Portland will gladly gamble on. The reward will be much sweeter in this scenario than any risk that would be involved.
By all accounts, it looks like the decision is paying off for now, as Aldridge has proven to be too valuable for him to sit for that long.
Individual stats are through Tuesday’s games