As every Portland Trail Blazers fan knows, the Blazers were one of the healthiest teams in the NBA during the 2013-14 campaign. Coach Terry Stotts used only two starting lineups all year; four out of five starters appeared in every contest. The Blazers lost only 92 games due to injury, fourth best in the league. Such good fortune was a welcome change for a franchise that had struggled with injuries to key players since Bill Walton broke his foot in 1978.
The change was so dramatic that Fox Sports produced a spoof video suggesting that Damian Lillard had magically transferred the Blazers' injury curse to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers:
Sadly, Damian Lillard's Halloween magic would not last. The injury bug returned to bite the Blazers in the 2014-2015 season. Nearly every player in Portland's rotation would miss several games due to injury.
Despite losing Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez, and Joel Freeland for several games mid-season, the Blazers were able to weather the storm with a 32-16 record . The mood remained optimistic. If everybody returned in time for the playoffs the Blazers would take their place as dark-horse title contenders. Besides, the Blazers were hardly alone. Injury problems for the Oklahoma City Thunder all but guaranteed that the Blazers would win the Northwest Division and secure a Top 4 seed in the Western conference.
As LaMarcus Aldridge battled through a thumb injury and the Blazers acquired Arron Afflalo for spare parts at the trade deadline, Portland's run at the playoffs was primed. Then Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles tendon in early March, opening a floodgate that would doom Portland's season.
As the season wound to a close the injury bug became an injury swarm. Dorrell Wright broke his hand, Arron Afflalo strained his shoulder, Nicolas Batum continued to struggle through knee and back pain, and Chris Kaman sprained his ankle. All of those players would vacillate between unavailable and noticeably hampered in Portland's playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Add in a shooting slump from Damian Lillard, which some have hypothesized is partially due to a lingering hand injury, and the Blazers playoff hopes dissolved before they had fully formed. Watching those dreams evaporate in a matter of days after a shiny, 30-8 start to the season was brutally disappointing for many players and fans.
Despite the disappointing end to the 2015 campaign, Blazers fans can be optimistic that most of the injuries are unlikely to have lasting effects. The number of hand injuries this season (e.g. Aldridge, Wright, Lopez, McCollum) became a sarcastic joke to many, but the good news is that those injuries are not likely to become chronic. Most of 2015's injuries will be a blip on the radar compared to the major knee issues suffered from 2010-2012. The future is still bright in Portland even if the present is painful.