TUALATIN, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard recalled guard Steve Blake looking pale and ghost-like.
Blazers guard Brandon Roy said Blake appeared tired and worn down.
And Portland coach Nate McMillan stated that, while he knew Blake was sick, he nor anyone else on the team initially had any idea just how ill Blake really was.
But many Blazers thought for weeks that something was wrong with Portland’s back-up point guard. And the notion was confirmed Friday, when Blake was admitted to an area hospital with pneumonia. He is expected to miss at least a few days.
“We’re all a little concerned with Steve,” said Roy, following a Friday morning workout at the team’s practice facility.
The 6-foot-3, 172-pound Blake is averaging 7.6 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 34 games (25 starts) for the Blazers this season.
Prior to his hospitalization, Blake was the only Blazer besides Andre Miller who had played in all of Portland’s games this year.
“You’ve got to give that kid a ton of (credit),” Pritchard said. “The amazing thing about him is, he could have it and nobody would know, because he wouldn’t tell anybody. Because … he really believes he doesn’t miss practice; he doesn’t miss games. How lucky are we to have guys like that?”
Blazers athletic trainer Jay Jensen said Blake had been troubled by a persistent cough and had been on cold medication for a couple weeks.
But the guard’s condition worsened during Portland’s 103-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Rose Garden on Wednesday.
Blake hit two key second-half 3-point shots, and finished the game with 10 points.
However, Roy recalled seeing Blake sitting in the Blazers’ locker room with a towel draped over his head during halftime. Roy asked Blake if he was feeling OK. Blake replied, “I just feel bad.”
In addition, McMillan stated that Blake did not look right during the fourth quarter, and that his skin color had changed. Portland’s coach attempted to pull Blake out of the game with six minutes to go, in the attempt to give the guard a breather. Blake insisted on staying on the court, though.
“He said, ‘No. Let me go, let me go,’ ” McMillan said.
Jensen stated that Blake possessed a slightly elevated fever during a recent team health evaluation, but his breathing was normal and he was not dehydrated. However, a chest X-ray showed that Blake had a “small little infiltrate in his right lung,” Jensen said. Blake was then administered intravenous therapy. Recent lab results confirmed that he had pneumonia.
“I talked to him today and he’s feeling better,” Jensen said. “But … he’s got to take care of his problem.”
Blake’s illness is the latest setback for the Blazers (21-13), who have been forced to deal with a series of major injuries and health issues this season. Centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are out for the year, while Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Jeff Pendergraph, Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge have all missed time due to injuries. In addition, McMillan ruptured his Achilles tendon during a practice, while owner Paul Allen and assistant coach Maurice Lucas have battled health problems.
“Things happen, and sometimes they happen bad, and it hits you hard,” McMillan said. “And that has happened to us pretty much all season long.”
Roy and McMillan stated that they have never played for nor known of a basketball team that has suffered so many health problems in one season. And while Roy said the overwhelming mixture of game-related injuries and off-the-court illnesses have been difficult to believe, McMillan said the only way he has been able to mentally persevere through the setbacks is by reminding himself that uncontrollable things often happen in life.
“To try to figure out why or what’s going on, you can go crazy,” McMillan said.
Meanwhile, Pritchard attempted to remain optimistic.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We’re going to go out there and compete,” Pritchard said. “There’s always these little blessings in disguise, right? Guys get opportunities. You get in there, you make the best of it. And hopefully in the long run, we’re a better team for this.”
With Blake and Aldridge (left ankle sprain) out Friday, Portland was forced to play 4-on-4 during a morning practice. But Roy said a Portland team that is 7-2 in its last nine games and is tied with the Denver Nuggets for the Northwest Division lead must stay the course and not give in to dark thoughts.
“The games are still going to come. The times are still the same,” Roy said. “And we’ve got to play, or we’re going to get our butt kicked.”