By TIM REYNOLDS
Portland guard Damian Lillard is leaving the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World for further tests on his injured right knee.
Lillard will leave the bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and return to Portland on Thursday, the Trail Blazers said. He was diagnosed Tuesday with a knee sprain, which occurred in Game 4 of the team’s first-round Western Conference series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The team did not make any mention if the uncertainty over the remainder of the NBA season played a role in Lillard’s decision. All three NBA games scheduled for Wednesday — including Game 5 between the Lakers and Blazers, which Lillard would not have played in and Portland would have had to win to extend its season — were postponed as part of a player protest against racial injustice.
Players made the extraordinary decisions to protest the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black man, apparently in the back while three of his children looked on.
Even if the playoffs resume and the Blazers were to extend their series, Lillard would have to miss several days anyway simply for leaving the bubble. He would have to quarantine for at least four days upon his return.
Lillard was the unanimous winner of the MVP award during the seeding games portion of the restarted season, the eight-game stretch that got the Blazers into the play-in round against the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s averaged 30.5 points inside the Disney bubble since the season restarted July 30.
Lillard willed the Blazers into the postseason with one dazzling performance after another. Portland won their final three seeding games by a total of seven points; Lillard had 51, 61 and 42 points, respectively, in those games.
Lillard has been very durable during his eight NBA seasons, all of them coming with the Blazers. They’ve played 703 regular-season and playoff games since he was drafted; he’s appeared in 670 of them, or 95.3%, and started his career by playing in 286 consecutive Portland contests, including playoff matchups.