It was reported on Friday night, after the Portland Trail Blazers’ 115-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, that Festus Ezeli had approached teammates and exchanged hugs and handshakes like he was saying goodbye. The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman was first to report the news while Comcast Sports Northwest reporter Jason Quick soon after reported that Ezeli would not be on the Blazers’ upcoming road-trip.
Odd scene in Blazers' locker room: Before leaving, Festus Ezeli approached teammates and exchanged hugs/handshakes. Like he was saying bye.
— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) January 14, 2017
Festus Ezeli will not be with the Blazers on this four game trip. Agent says it is NOT because of an impending knee surgery.
— Jason Quick (@jwquick) January 14, 2017
Ezeli hasn’t played all season and was supposedly contemplating knee surgery. But, as Jason Quick stated, his agent said the decision to not travel with the team is not due to having a surgery on the knee that’s caused him issues throughout his career.
So what could this be a sign of? No one has verified exactly what is going on, but here are a few ideas as to what could be happening.
This is probably the least likely scenario for a number of reasons. While Ezeli hasn’t played all season and the team is probably looking to make a move, Ezeli doesn’t have much value other than being an expiring contract. The Trail Blazers could package some pieces and picks along with Ezeli, but that would be confusing as Jason Quick also reported that a team source indicated he’d be back with the team when they return from their road trip. However, that could be something the team has to say to keep the rumor mill from popping up. Either way, this seems like the least logical explanation for the exchange between him and his teammates.
Mutual Parting of Ways
This happens more often than you’d think. Essentially, the Trail Blazers and Ezeli would agree to part ways until he is traded or waived. Ezeli would still technically be a Blazers player until he is either moved or waived, but he would not be around the team like he has been up to this point. This would explain the goodbyes and the potential idea of him being “back with the team” after their road trip.
Disabled Player Exception
The disabled player exception is a way to gain some cap flexibility for the Trail Blazers. The league would have to agree that Ezeli’s injury is season-ending in order to issue the disabled player exception. But if they did, the Trail Blazers could use the exception in a variety of ways. It doesn’t reduce the salary that Ezeli would receive, but would give Portland an exception to use in a trade or to pick up a free agent with. The exception would be valued at 50 percent of Ezeli’s cap hit and could be used to enhance or bolster the Blazers roster in some way, shape, or form. Seeing as January 15th is the deadline to apply for the disabled player exception, this would also make some sense as it’s only 24 hours away.
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