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Blazers’ Damian Lillard dealing with James Harden-type injury

Damian Lillard, James Harden, Blazers

James Harden knows what this story means: Buckle up, Portland Trail Blazers fans, because Friday’s tilt against the San Antonio Spurs could get a bit dicey after some late-breaking injury news about Damian Lillard.

That’s right, despite initial reports that only Blazers center Zach Collins would be absent from tonight’s game in San Antonio, leader and superstar Damian Lillard will be sitting out for only the third time this season with an injury similar to that of James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets.

While presumably minor, both stars are most likely biding their time and making sure that they’re at full strength when the playoffs come around. They can definitely afford to as well, as Brooklyn is bucking for the first seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Blazers are firmly in the West’s playoff picture, and is even playing well enough to avoid this year’s play-in tournament between the conference’s 7th through 10th seeds.

It makes sense that both are taking their time to rest up, as both will be crucial to their teams’ performance come playoff time. For better or for worse, both Lillard and Harden have experienced heartbreak in the postseason after falling victim to burnout from the regular season. Lillard is the heart and soul of the Blazers, and when Harden was on the Rockets, he was possibly over-relied on as the team’s one consistent source of efficient offense.

Now that they don’t have to fight tooth and nail to even get to the postseason, they have earned their rest. To be honest, both of their teams — the Blazers and Nets — could stand to learn how to function without them helming the ship.

For now, the Blazers will likely replace Lillard’s production with that of newcomer Norman Powell, who has been known to go on his own share of hot streaks.

Between Powell, fellow star CJ McCollum, and veteran Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers will still have plenty of perimeter offense to combat Popovich and the Spurs. We’ll see how Portland’s supporting characters step up in their leader’s absence.