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Festus Ezeli's Knee and Trail Blazers Signings

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One reader cries over Festus Ezeli's knee procedure and another wants a possible replacement. Here's why the situation isn't that dire.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

I've been out for a little bit executing an in-real-life move, which is kind of like a low post move, just with more boxes and moving guys breaking your stuff. Let's clean up a couple questions that have come in during the past week.

If you have Portland Trail Blazers questions, send them along to blazersub@gmail.com.

Dave,

Festus Ezeli is injured already!!! UGH. Do the Blazers have THE WORST luck or what?

Barb

Maybe so, but this is hardly a representative example. Festus Ezeli signed a below-projected-value contract for some reason. Why do you think that was?

We got a little bit of smoke screenage around the time of Ezeli's signing with, "He chose Portland!" as if fondness for the Blazers explained the entire process. Not quite. A statement can be true and still not provide an adequate explanation. If my wife says, "Did I just see you kissing that other woman?!?" and I respond with, "I love you, dear!!!" the response is probably accurate but hardly adequate.

In this case the other part of the explanation--probably the more significant portion--is that Ezeli's knees were troubled to begin with and that scared away other suitors...or at least any other suitors that would offer him significantly more money. The Blazers got Ezeli with the tacit understanding that the risk of injury and/or need for corrective medical measures were high. Thus the bargain. Him staying healthy would have been more of a surprise than him needing some kind of procedure.

Note, though, that Ezeli wasn't injured outright. He had a bone marrow injection to help his knee function better. That certainly says something about the state of the knee, but the projected six-week recovery time still leaves room for him to suit up for the regular season. If he was going to have the procedure done, now was the time to do it. So far this is still a no harm, no foul situation. The doom and gloom can wait for the next thing that happens with his knee.

Also note that even if Ezeli is injured enough that he can't play for the Blazers at all, that contract isn't hurting them. It's short-term, not guaranteed beyond this season, and they'd be over the cap even if they hadn't signed him. Saying everything is good in Festus Land would be an overstatement, but nothing's gone that wrong yet either.

Dave,

Do you see any free agents left on the market who could help us? How about Budinger or Hansborough?

Byron

A few guys out there have interested me mildly in the past. I don't dislike Robert Sacre. I could be talked into Jason Thompson maybe. Once upon a time I think I suggested that the Blazers might look at Gary Neal. But Portland already has enough big men to make Sacre, Thompson, or Tyler Hansbrough superfluous. They don't have room for Neal, Chase Budinger, or anybody else. They're full up.

I'd move any number of low- to mid-roster players for a decent trade but cutting Luis Montero or Pat Connaughton just to sign a guy that wouldn't play much doesn't make sense. The young guys at least have potential. The team's rolling the dice with them but there's a roll in the offing. You can't say the same for any of the players we've just mentioned who have proven themselves...or, well...not. Plus it'd cost money. The Blazers are right at the luxury tax line. The financial implications of exceeding the threshold are modest compared to next season's bill when CJ McCollum's extension kicks in, but there's still value in not starting the clock on the "repeater" tax designation a year early. None of the guys we're mentioning would be worth going into tax territory for.

If the Blazers are going to improve the roster this year, it'll have to be through trade. They're done signing for now...as well they should be.

Keep sending those Mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail.com!