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Festus Ezeli Cleared For Limited Practice, Blocks Damian Lillard

One of Portland's two free-agent signings participated in parts of Monday's practice, though there is no timetable for his return.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

With a week left in the preseason, the Portland Trail Blazers are getting closer to full strength.

According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, center Festus Ezeli participated in parts of practice, including a half-court 4-on-4 session and some full court conditioning drills. He capped it with a block on a driving Damian Lillard.

Freeman detailed Ezeli's recent activities leading up to his participation in Monday's practice.

Ezeli had ramped up his rehabilitation in recent days, undergoing a light shooting session and some on-court conditioning work after the Blazers' Saturday practice. But Monday was his most extensive work since Aug. 23, when Ezeli's left knee was injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate and Orthovisc to help alleviate pain and improve function. He went through some full-court conditioning drills that included sprinting, competed in some 4-on-4 defensive drills and other half-court workouts, and went through 1-on-1 drills.

Ezeli, who signed a two-year free agent deal with the Blazers in July, said Monday's work was simply the latest step in the "process" and there remains no timetable for his full return.

The Blazers' official timetable for Ezeli to sidelined following the bone marrow aspirate and Orthovisc injection was six weeks. Sunday will be a full two months since the injection, so it's in the Blazers best interest to stay away from timetables, given they've already eclipsed the first one they issued. Knees are tricky and chronically injured knees, trickier yet.

The Blazers are also in a pretty convenient position when it comes to Ezeli's rehabilitation, in that they don't really need him back with any urgency. The lack of a timetable also allows Ezeli to return at his own pace, without the pressure of making it back for a specific date hanging over him. Any possible setback, in the context of an indefinite rehabilitation, can be taken as part of the process rather than a warning siren.

Meyers Leonard has dealt with some back issues lately, but other than that, the Blazers are pretty deep at center. Noah Vonleh's play in the preseason (obligatory "yes, it's preseason" note) has made the prospect of him seeing real minutes in the middle much more palatable. And hey, Greg Stiemsma is still here. The Blazers can afford to take their time with Ezeli.

Ezeli is taking steps, but it appears that his impact won't be felt for awhile.

Read Freeman's piece for some more details on Ezeli's practice participation, including his block on Lillard.