The Blazers are 3-4 since Aldridge's injury and 3-8 in their last 11 games. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge could return from a seven-game absence on Thursday when slumping Portland travels to Atlanta to face off against the Hawks, a team fighting to keep the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Aldridge, who has been dealing with a back contusion since taking a hard fall against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month, told CSNNW on Tuesday that he still can't run but added that he's "trying to go no matter what" when the team plays the Hawks. The X-ray on his back came back negative, but there was, and still is, no real timetable for his return that the team has given.
While it sounds encouraging that he's trying to play "no matter what" on Thursday for a Blazers team that's gone 3-8 over its last 11, he knows -- and admitted as much -- that it's ultimately up to the medical staff as to whether he can suit up, according to the report:
"I say I’m trying to go no matter what [against Atlanta on Thursday] but if I look good enough to play [in Wednesday’s workout], then I’m going to play,” he said. “It’s up to the medical staff….It (losing) makes me want to play even worse, yes it does,” Aldridge answered in frustration. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move, you can’t play.”
The Blazers currently own the No. 5 spot in a stacked Western Conference and would face the Houston Rockets if the playoffs started today. The matchup is entirely possible, as the postseason begins next month, but Aldridge's return could ultimately decide whether the team keeps its matchup with the Rockets as a No. 5 seed or swaps places with the Golden State Warriors, who are currently only a half-game behind Portland. A drop to the No. 6 seed would mean a likely matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, who split their season series with the Blazers.
Aldridge, undoubtedly the MVP of the team and arguably of the league, is averaging 23.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season for Portland.