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Blazers Cut Festus Ezeli in Salary Cap Move

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The once-anticipated free agent never played a game for Portland.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Festus Ezeli has been waived by the Portland Trail Blazers, concluding a one-year relationship featuring zero regular-season appearances in a Blazers uniform. Ezeli battled left knee injury the entire year, undergoing a bone marrow injection procedure before the season started and season-ending surgery in March. In between, frustration boiled over from all sides regarding his fitness and willingness to play.

Had the Blazers not cut him, Ezeli would have remained with the team for the 2017-18 season at a rate of $7.7 million. Today’s move trims that amount to $1 million, according to Basketball Insiders. It also opens up a roster spot for incoming rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan.

Ezeli signed with the Blazers on July 7, 2016, concluding a free-agency period that left them on the outside looking in as the league chased big-name centers. During the press conference introducing Ezeli to Portland, President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said adding the 6’11” center would put “additional pressure on the team” to succeed because he shored up Portland’s gap on defense, completing a roster which “had a lot of answers” and would “cause a lot of problems for people”. Olshey also said he was proudest of the character of the new recruits—Ezeli, plus Evan Turner and Shabazz Napier—citing how “seamlessly they’re going to fit into our culture”. Olshey cautioned against chasing more obvious free agents at the expense of cultural integrity and character. The sentiment was seconded by Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts.

Ezeli holds career averages of 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game. He has appeared in 170 contests over a five-season span, four with the Golden State Warriors.