PORTLAND - Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan dreads hearing his phone ring first thing in the morning, because it usually means bad news, such as 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 some fans have dubbed McMillan’s team the “Frail Blazers.”
Portland has been besieged with injuries – particularly knee injuries – since last season. But somehow they’ve managed to win.
The Blazers have won five straight, their longest winning streak of the season, to push their record to 25-20, a season-best five games over .500.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” guard 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 last 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 per game.
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 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. His absence could be significant not only because of his contribution on the floor, but also because of his veteran leadership in the locker room.
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.
The Blazers also were stung in late October when assistant coach Maurice Lucas, the fierce power forward known as “The Enforcer” who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, died of cancer. He was 58.
Portland Trail Blazers who are out with injuries:
Greg Oden, CKneeOut for season
Brandon Roy, GBoth kneesUnknown
Marcus Camby, CKneeAbout three weeks
Jeff Pendergraph, FKneeOut for season
Elliot Williams, GBoth kneesOut for season