PORTLAND, Ore. – Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan dreads hearing his phone ring first thing in the morning because it usually means bad news, like another injury.
McMillan has had quite a few of those calls, and they haven’t let up since early in the season. It’s gotten so bad that fans have dubbed McMillan’s team the “Frail Blazers.”
Portland has been besieged with injuries – particularly knee injuries – since last season. But somehow the Blazers have managed to win.
The Blazers have won five straight, their longest winning streak of the season, to push their record to 25-20 and five games over .500, also a season high.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Wesley Matthews said Saturday night after the Blazers overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 97-92.
The latest casualty was starting point guard Andre Miller, who missed the game because of a stomach ailment. The Blazers scrambled, thrusting Matthews and swingman Rudy Fernandez into unaccustomed roles.
It capped a rough week for Portland.
Three-time All-Star Brandon Roy had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees on Monday. His return was uncertain, but Roy appeared Saturday night at the Rose Garden and proclaimed he’d like to get back this season.
He would, however, follow the advice of the team doctors.
“It’s tough sitting out, it’s just tough not doing anything. I just asked, ‘Can I jog? Can I do this?’ Not today,” he said. “So I’m just trying to be patient. I don’t like not doing much. Biggest thing is I’m going to ask them every day but just try to be as patient as I can.”
Roy has played in pain this season because of what he says is a lack of cartilage in both knees. He was averaging 16.6 points in 23 games. For his career, the 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year is averaging 19.9 points and 4.9 assists.
Last season, Roy had arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee two days before the Blazers opened their first-round playoff series against Phoenix. He made a remarkable comeback and played in the fourth game of the series, which the Suns eventually won. Some have suggested that he returned too soon.
On Thursday, center Marcus Camby had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The team said an MRI exam was initially clear, but closer examination revealed a partial meniscus tear. The team said Camby could return in three weeks, although that timetable seemed ambitious.
Camby, a 6-foot-11 veteran of 15 NBA seasons, was averaging 5.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.87 blocks in 39 games this season, all starts.
In November, the team announced that center Greg Oden, the No. 1 draft pick in 2007, would miss the season because of microfracture surgery on his left knee. Oden missed his rookie year because of microfracture surgery on his right knee.
Second-year forward Jeff Pendergraph injured his knee in the preseason and required season-ending surgery. And rookie guard Elliot Williams has undergone surgery this season on both knees.
“Every time you suit up and you hear a key guy’s not playing, it’s like, ‘Man, what are we going to do now?’ ” LaMarcus Aldridge asked.
Aldridge has been one of the reasons the Blazers have weathered all of the injuries. He is averaging 26.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in January and has 21 double-doubles this season. He’s even getting All-Star buzz.
Last season, Portland players missed a combined 311 regular-season games because of injury, second only to the Golden State Warriors and most among playoff teams. Only two players, Miller and former forward Martell Webster, were healthy for all 82 games.
The Blazers were hit particularly hard at center, when Oden and Joel Przybilla both suffered season-ending injuries in December. But Portland brought in Camby, and the Blazers won a surprising 50 games and made it to the playoffs.
This season the group seems to be overachieving again.
“I think a lot of people were counting them out and not talking much about them,” Roy said. “(But) they’re doing a great job of just sticking together and going out there and putting together wins.”