Even all the way over in Spain, the Portland Trail Blazers injury woes will hit close to home.
Joel Freeland - who plays for Unicaja Malaga in the ACB Spanish league and remains the draft property of the Blazers - will miss the next 15 to 20 days of action with a sprained right ankle the team announced today.
Freeland is averaging 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as Unicaja's leading scorer and his right ankle just might throw up a red flag when Portland decides to revisit conversations during the offseason about having what some scouts overseas consider "the best big in Europe" playing for the Blazers.
For Portland, the original game plan was to take a hard look at bringing Freeland over next season to play a supporting role behind LaMarcus Aldridge or even use him as a starting center depending on Marcus Camby's longevity.
In 2010, Freeland missed the European qualifiers for the Great Britain National Team with an injury and his right ankle caused him troubles at the London International Basketball Invitational in August, and the start of this season for Unicaja. Now add the recent right ankle sprain and there will be cause for concern about his overall health even at 25-years old and in the prime of his career. While Freeland appeared in only two summer leagues with Portland (2007 and 2008), the front office and scouting team know him very well and remain in close touch with Freeland through the course of the ACB season.
They are also very aware of Freeland's health history.
While members of the Blazers scouting team were on hand in Lithuania at EuroBasket to monitor Freeland’s growth as he represented Great Britain (who was subsequently bounced from the first round) back in September and averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, it’s become clear the whole “Freeland finally arrives to play in Portland” headline is going to either take more patience or not come to fruition at all.
Freeland's buyout clause is 1.5 million euros, or around $2 million USD.
"He's the best big in Europe," one scout in Europe explained earlier in the season.
"He really knows how to get position, he sets up deep, and then scores over both shoulders. And he is deceptively quick when pivoting and spinning off his man. He's a beast."
It used to be Freeland's future with the Blazers was about how the 6-foot-11 power forward/center didn't want to leave his all-star status in Europe to sit the bench in Portland, or with any team in the NBA for that matter.
But depending on how Freeland responds from this latest setback, not starting will be the least of his worries.