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CJ McCollum avoids serious injury, but Blazers prepared ‘to finish without him’

When the magnetic resonance imaging test results on CJ McCollum’s injured left knee came back over the weekend, you could almost feel a sigh of relief waft across Rip City.

The Portland Trail Blazers’ starting shooting guard was diagnosed with a popliteus strain in his left knee, which, in layman’s terms, means he dodged a serious injury. But while McCollum avoided the worst, he and the team stopped short Monday of guaranteeing the best, offering few details about when — or if — he might return this season. “What did they say? I’ll be reevaluated in one week?” McCollum said, when asked how long he expected to be sidelined. “Just taking it day by day. I don’t have a time limit that I’m going to give you guys.”

If anything, a cloud of unknown hovers over his status moving forward. And, if anything, his teammates are bracing for an extended absence. “In my mind, we’re going to finish the regular season without him,” All-Star point guard Damian Lillard said. “I think that’s how I should think of it. We’d rather have him healthy and strong in the playoffs than have him come back early and not be himself and maybe aggravate it in a way that we don’t need him to.

“I already know that he’s going to try to get a million hours of rehab and do all this stuff. But … I’ve told him, ‘Take your time, don’t rush. Get healthy and come back right.’”

McCollum on Monday was still dealing with swelling and pain, a feeling he said felt like “something is pulling in the back of your leg.” But just two days after suffering the injury during an awkward fall on a driving layup attempt against the San Antonio Spurs, McCollum was already knee-deep in knee rehabilitation. By the time his teammates were tipping off an eventual win over the Indiana Pacers on national television, McCollum already had ridden an exercise bike, splashed through some pool work, undergone a round of physical therapy, lifted weights and lay for some massage therapy.

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