According to multiple reports, Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli will not accompany the team on their upcoming 4-game road trip and, according to Jason Quick of CSN NW, his absence is not because of an impending knee surgery.
Festus Ezeli will not be with the Blazers on this four game trip. Agent says it is NOT because of an impending knee surgery.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) January 14, 2017
Meanwhile Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports that Ezeli hugged his teammates and shook their hands farewell as if he would not be seeing them for some time.
Odd scene in Blazers' locker room: Before leaving, Festus Ezeli approached teammates and exchanged hugs/handshakes. Like he was saying bye.— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) January 14, 2017
Blazers are leaving for a 4-game trip Saturday, but it sure seemed like Ezeli was saying bye for good (or extended time) rather than a week.— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) January 14, 2017
Ezeli (knee) has previously traveled with the team on road trips, despite being unable to play, as mentioned in an ESPN article by Chris Haynes that detailed an incident in which Ezeli was quieted by frustrated teammates while giving a locker room pep talk.
The injured center signed in Portland as a free agent last summer, with the expectation that he would play 15-20 minutes per game for the bulk of the season, sitting the second game of back-to-back sets. He has not yet seen game action and is reportedly considering the aforementioned season-ending knee surgery.
Ezeli’s 2-year, $15.1 million contract is only partially guaranteed for $1.0 million in the second year. If Ezeli is deemed to be out for the year, the Trail Blazers can apply for a disabled player exception equal to half of Ezeli’s salary for the current season + $100,000. They can use that exception to sign a free agent or trade for a player in the last year of their contract. They do not have to use it if applied for, but the theoretical clock is ticking. The application deadline is January 15.
Quick called Ezeli’s absence a “delicate situation” and suggested that there may be more to it that he could not reveal, but he maintained that Ezeli will rejoin the team when they return home later this month.
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