With Roy and Aldridge, Blazers must weigh risk versus reward
TUALATIN, Ore. — With just five regular-season games remaining and a Western Conference playoff spot already locked up, the Portland Trail Blazers now must weigh risk versus reward.
Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge missed Tuesday’s practice at the team’s workout facility due to a sinus infection, while three-time All-Star guard Brandon Roy sat out his second consecutive session because of a sore back. Roy and Aldridge are listed as probable for tonight’s road game against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. But Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan acknowledged that he will have to consider the pros and cons of playing his star players, as well as take into consideration the wishes of the players involved and the advice of Portland’s training staff.
“If guys have some injuries and we feel we need to rest them, then we’ll look at that,” McMillan said. “Right now, we expect them to be ready to go. … But you’ve definitely got to look at the health of the players.”
Heading into Tuesday’s NBA schedule, Portland (47-30) sat in the eighth and final place in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Blazers were just a half-game behind seventh-place San Antonio, and three games behind four teams tied for second place.
While making the playoffs is no longer a concern for a resilient Portland team, health and momentum are.
The Blazers have missed 298 games due to injury this season, and 13 different players have sat out at least one contest due to injury or health-related issues. In addition, Roy has missed 15 games, while Aldridge has been absent for three.
But while caution would appear to dictate that Portland could afford to play without Roy and Aldridge against a struggling Clippers (27-50) team that has only won three out of its last 18 games, the Blazers are also attempting to move up as high as possible in the Western Conference standings before the regular season ends April 14.
Portland has won 10 of its last 12 games, and the team is 16-6 since the All-Star break. A logjam at the top of the West, though, has prevented the Blazers from making significant progress in the standings. But with a likely first-round matchup against premier teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas, Denver or Utah less than two weeks away, any game-time minutes that Roy or Aldridge spend watching instead of playing could disrupt Portland’s late-season flow.
“You manage it accordingly. We have clinched. And we want to finish strong and continue to play,” McMillan said. “But we also have to look at the fact that, if we do have a guy that’s in that situation where they need to rest, that’s a consideration.”
McMillan said one issue that should not trip up the Blazers, though, is the fact that tonight’s game marks the first time the team will play against former Rip City members Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw.
Portland traded Blake and Outlaw to the Clippers on Feb. 16 in exchange for center Marcus Camby. The Blazers hosted Los Angeles later that night at the Rose Garden, but none of the three players took the court, since the trade had just been completed.
Camby has provided Portland with spark and new life, shoring up the team’s defensive middle while averaging 9 points and 11.8 rebounds in his last five games.
But Blake and Outlaw played equally key roles in Portland’s revitalization in recent years. The duo starred for a Blazers team that won 54 games last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Despite past ties, McMillan said nostalgia and familial-like memories will not be a factor. The NBA is a profession just like any other, and the Blazers have a job to do.
“It’s a game that we want to get. We want to continue to play well and take care of business there,” McMillan said. “We know (Blake and Outlaw) will be excited to play against us. And we have Camby going down, to play against his old team. … We want to do down there and get this game.”
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Blazers vs. Clippers, 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center
TV: CSN (37)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 14.1
G Brandon Roy 6-6 21.9
F Nicolas Batum 6-8 10.3
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 17.6
C Marcus Camby 6-11 6.2
G Baron Davis 6-3 15.3
G Eric Gordon 6-3 16.9
F Rasual Butler 6-7 12.0
F Drew Gooden 6-10 14.9
C Chris Kaman 7-0 18.4