Damian Lillard's tough start to the season continued this weekend, as he was ruled out of the Portland Trail Blazers' matchup with the Denver Nuggets on Sunday because of lower abdominal tendinopathy. This will be the first game Lillard has missed this season.
Lillard has been dealing with the issue for years and he re-aggravated it during the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Though he was able to complete the tournament, he struggled for Team USA and needed to undergo further testing after returning to the U.S. Earlier this season he admitted that it was still bothering him, but said it didn't excuse his poor play.
"Anytime it gets irritated it just is a little irritation there, you know what I mean?" Lillard said on Nov. 3. "But I've played with it for a few years now so I'm kinda immune to playing with it. I've played well, I've done a lot of things with it being irritated, but it's just irritating."
Lillard is off to arguably the worst start of his career, and through the first 13 games is averaging 20 points and 8.1 assists on 38 percent shooting from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. He's also taking just 3.4 free throws per game, which would be a career low and less than half of what he took last season.
Earlier this week, he came out against the league's new rule changes, which have allowed for more physicality and reduced the number of free throws across the league.
"I feel like the way the game is being officiated is unacceptable," Lillard said. "I don't want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations, the s--- that's getting missed, I mean, come on. I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn't affect me, because I don't do the trick to the referees, I don't do the trick plays, and it's just unacceptable. Then the explanations and the remarks in return when you tell them is just like [Lillard shrugs]. I don't even have nothin' else to say about it."
Between the nagging injury, the officiating changes, a new coach and a front office scandal, Lillard has not been able to get comfortable this season. As a result, the Blazers are off to a disappointing 6-7 start. While there's still plenty of season left, it's obvious they'll need Lillard to play better if they want to turn things around and make some noise in the Western Conference.
Perhaps a few days off to rest and let this ab issue calm down will be just what Lillard needs to get back on track.