lillard.jpg
Getty Images

Damian Lillard will miss the remainder of the season while recovering from abdominal surgery he underwent in January, the Portland Trail Blazers announced Monday

"He has met several key performance benchmarks to date and will continue end-stage rehab over the next few weeks," the team wrote in its statement before adding that his season is over. Lillard played just 29 games for Portland this season.

Lillard has been dealing with this abdominal issue since last season at least. He struggled in the Olympics while playing through it, and he shot career lows from the field (40.2 percent) and behind the arc (32.4 percent) while averaging just 24 points per game. That was his lowest output since the 2014-15 season, and as such, the Blazers have struggled to remain in the playoff race.

Once Lillard underwent surgery and it became clear that this season would be a lost cause, the Blazers pivoted in the other direction. They traded veterans CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Larry Nance Jr. and Robert Covington for draft picks, young players and cap relief. They have since fallen to No. 11 in the Western Conference standings, and with several players still recovering from injuries, they could fall even further. Portland's best-case scenario would be to remain and add not only their own lottery pick, but the one they acquired from New Orleans in the McCollum trade as well.

Those picks and the other assets picked up at the trade deadline give Portland the most flexibility it's had to rebuild around Lillard that it has had in quite some time. Lillard was the subject of trade rumors last offseason, but has made it clear that he plans to remain with the Blazers and wants to win a championship in Portland. He has a long way to go if he hopes to do so, but at least now his team has youth and draft capital to spend in order to help him get there.