According to Casey Holdahl from BlazersEdge.com, the Portland Trail Blazers’ backup power forward/center, Joel Freeland, will be out for 4-8 weeks with an MCL sprain of his right knee after injuring it during the first quarter of last night’s loss against the OKC Thunder.
When Freeland’s knee buckled as he was fighting for position with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, it looked like the injury might be much more serious than an MCL sprain. Still it leaves the Blazers without one of their key reserves and their primary reserve big man along side Thomas Robinson.
A second year player, Freeland was averaging 3.3 points, 3.9 rebounds in nearly 14 minutes of play. The fact that the bench was already a problem area for the Blazers, with quality production inconsistent at best, just became a larger issue with the loss of Freeland. It will most likely mean increased minutes for Robinson and Meyers Leonard (as it did last night when Leonard was forced into action for 14 minutes of play in which he produced 4 points and 3 rebounds, after being a DNP-CD the two games prior to that. In the last 5 games, Robinson has averaged just 8.5 minutes while scoring 0.8 points and 3.3 rebounds; a level of play that will almost certainly have to increase with Freeland’s absence. It could also mean that the Blazers are more willing to consider exploring trade options prior to the February 20th deadline.
Only a few days ago, head coach Terry Stotts felt that the Blazers would stand pat at the deadline and would rely on the personnel they already had on the roster to develop and better their level of play in lieu of bringing in outside help. But with the Blazers’ record just 5-5 in their last 10 games, and with them already relying heavily on their starters to play a significant amount of minutes, they might want to rethink that strategy if the Blazers are to head into the playoffs with a top 3 seed and not limp in and risk getting knocked out in the first round.