HANG TIME WEST – Trail Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum will be sidelined indefinitely after fracturing his left foot in practice Saturday, giving Portland both an immediate and long-term concern before the No. 10 pick in June had even played his first exhibition game.
No timetable will be set for a return until after surgery, the team said, with the date of the operation also not known. The certainty, though, is that the Trail Blazers have lost one of the league’s most promising rookies and suffered a significant loss to the second unit after a summer of successfully upgrading the bench to move into playoff contention.
While McCollum faced the unusual predicament of being chosen in the lottery to play behind reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, he would have played a lot. The plan was for the two to be on the court together with versatile games that complemented each other on offense, while McCollum could have played straight backup at the point paired with Wesley Matthews or Nicolas Batum in the backcourt.
The encouraging note for the Trail Blazers is that point guard had become their deepest position thanks to the offseason acquisitions of Mo Williams and Earl Watson that would have allowed coach Terry Stotts to choose among three proven ballhandlers and one highly regarded, mature rookie with four years of college experience. While waiting for word on how long McCollum will be out, this hit will not remove Portland from the postseason conversation if Williams plays at his previous level.
The bigger concern is that a similar injury ended McCollum’s senior season at Lehigh in January, a second fracture to the same area within about eight months that raises the possibility the Blazers are dealing with an indefinite problem. He had surgery then, too.
At the very least, the aspect of the repeat injury means the team will likely be more cautious in a return to the court than it would have been under ordinary circumstances.
And, as The Oregonian noted, the Trail Blazers have a freakish history with breaks or fractures of the same fifth metatarsal bone: Lillard was sidelined in 2010-11 at Weber State, and it cost Martell Webster time after he suffered the injury in a 2008 preseason game and Travis Outlaw in 2009-10.