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When the Cleveland Cavaliers get back on the court for the first time in 2018, they will do so Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena.
However, it remains to be seen if Damian Lillard will suit up for Portland.
The Trail Blazers’ 6-foot-3, 195-pound standout point guard has sat out the team’s last three games with a sore right hamstring. Portland will play at Chicago (13-23) on Monday night before making its way to Cleveland on Tuesday, so first things, first for Lillard’s possible return.
As expected, @Dame_Lillard (right hamstring strain) will be a game time decision for tomorrow’s game vs. Bulls
— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) December 31, 2017
Even if Lillard plays Monday night against the Bulls, it remains to be seen if he would play in the nightcap of a back-to-back against the Cavaliers (24-12) for coach Terry Stotts‘ squad.
The Blazers (18-17) are coming off a disappointing 104-89 loss at Atlanta on Saturday night, a game which produced only the Hawks’ 10th win on the season, coming on the second night of a back-to-back for Atlanta, it having played Friday night at Toronto.
Lillard sat out again after suffering the hamstring strain on Dec. 20. He reportedly went through a workout after practice Friday night and worked out again on the floor before the game against the Hawks, but was officially ruled out before gametime.
Portland (18-17) is 2-2 in the four games Lillard has missed with injuries this season. He said he is being cautious as he attempts to get back on the court.
“You don’t want to go out there when it feels good, (but) there’s still a little bit of discomfort and then I get a little tired and I reaggravate it,” he told reporters last week. “And now you have a setback. So we’ll see. I felt like this was the right decision.”
Earlier in his career, Lillard, a two-time All-Star, said he would have played through the injury, but he and the team are opting to take a big-picture view of the situation as opposed to being concerned with any short-term gain by coming back too soon.
“I just don’t want to have to go out there and be thinking about it,” he said. “And I also don’t want to go out there and hurt the team in a way where I might reaggravate it and now I’m missing more time because I rushed into the game.
“So I don’t want to do us a disservice in the grand scheme of things.”
The 27-year-old six-year pro out of Weber State is averaging 25.2 points and 6.4 assists in 37.1 minutes in 31 games this season for the Blazers, while shooting 41.8 percent from the field, including 34.8 percent from three. He is a 22.6 scorer per game in his career.