The most recent Illini to have reached the NBA ranks will unfortunately be sidelined for the rest of the 2015-16 season. On Thursday night, the Portland Trailblazers announced that forward Meyers Leonard requires surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.
Leonard has missed Portland's last five games after suffering the injury during practice on March 16. The Blazers have yet to announce a prognosis on his return to the court, but they'll presumably make an update after the procedure takes place on April 8.
Through 61 games this season, the 24-year-old was averaging career-highs in points (8.4), rebounds (5.4), and minutes (21.9) while shooting 44.8% from the field.
Leonard was selected with the eleventh overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by Portland, and he's one of two active former Illinois players in the NBA (Deron Williams, Dallas). Through four seasons, the seven-foot-one big man has averaged 5.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest while appearing in a total of 221 games.
The Blazers (37-36) currently sit at the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference, so this isn't the best news for a franchise that's looking to sneak their way into the playoffs. At least one of Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Chris Kaman, and Cliff Alexander (yes -- that Cliff Alexander!) will likely need to step up in order to reach the postseason.
But, really, who cares about Portland. The main takeaway here should be that Leonard's injury is absolutely devastating on multiple fronts for Illinois fans that play as the Trail Blazers in NBA 2k. Like me, for example. I DON'T KNOW HOW I'M GOING TO REPLACE HIS PRODUCTION, Y'ALL.