The list of Trail Blazers who have been injured during training camp got a little longer on Tuesday with Nicolas Batum suffering a concussion during practice on Tuesday. He will not play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Suns at the Moda Center.
The injury occurred when Batum collided midair with Will Barton, who also suffered a concussion early in training camp, while driving to the basket. Batum reportedly hit the basket stanchion after the collision. It’s not known whether it was the collision with Barton or the stanchion that caused the concussion, but it is clear that he will not be in uniform for Wednesday night’s game.
The NBA instituted a new policy on concussions in 2011, which require a player diagnosed with a concussion to “complete a series of steps to confirm that he’s healthy enough for competition. Once he is free of symptoms, the player must make it through increasing stages of exertion – from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills – while ensuring the symptoms don’t return after each one. Then the neurologist hired to lead the NBA’s concussion program needs to be consulted before the player is cleared.”
As a point of reference, Barton was diagnosed with a concussion on October 3 and was cleared to play four days later at the Wells Fargo Fan Fest on October 7. Then again, no two concussions are the same, so there’s no guarentee that Batum’s timeline for return will be similar to Barton’s.
Batum joins Barton, LaMarcus Aldridge (strained left quad), Mo Williams (sprained left ankle), Earl Watson (left quad contusion) and CJ McCollum (broken left foot) as players who have been sidelined in one form or another during training camp and preseason due to injury.
No word yet on who will start in Batum’s place, though Dorell Wright, who did not play in Monday night’s loss to the Clippers, would be the likely choice if healthy.
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Portland Trail Blazers evened their best-of-seven first round playoff series by winning Game Four versus a relatively healthy Los Angeles Clippers squad. The same could not be said of the team the Trail Blazers will face in Game Five Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Clippers announced Tuesday afternoon that starting point guard Chris Paul would be out for at least the next four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured third metacarpal in his right hand, an injury he suffered in the third quarter of Portland’s 98-84 victory in Game Four. Paul, a nine-time All-Star and arguably the best point guard in the NBA, averaged 23.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 7.3 assists, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals while playing stellar defense on Portland’s guards in the first four games of the series.
“My job as a coach is to figure out a way of getting us up and ready for Game Five,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “There’s nobody, probably in the league, that’s going to replace Chris Paul so there’s nobody clearly on our team that’s going to do it. As a group everybody pitches in.”
While the Clippers stopped short of listing Paul out for the entire playoffs, saying instead that he would be reevaluated in four to six weeks, that timeline assures the 6-3 veteran point guard out of Wake Forest will miss the rest of the series versus Portland.
To make matters worse for Rivers, it was also announced that Blake Griffin would miss the rest of the postseason with a left quad injury that has dogged the All-Star power forward for much of the season. Griffin also suffered his injury in the third quarter of Game Four.
“I could feel it,” said Griffin after Game Four. “Hopefully in the next 24-48 hours you turn a corner and feel better, so I’m not really concentrated on how it felt tonight, that’s kind of expected after you tweak something.”
Griffin had an MRI on his left quad Tuesday, which showed no new damage, but the aggravation was evidently serious enough to sideline the five-time All-Star. He played in just 35 games this season due to dealing with a partially torn left quad and a broken hand. Griffin averaged 15.0 points on 38 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 31.8 minutes during the 2016 postseason.
Rivers will likely look to some combination of Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni to fill in for Paul, while Jeff Green, who started 10 games for the Clippers after being traded midseason from the Grizzlies, while likely pick up Blake’s minutes. Rivers and Green are listed as probable starters in place of Paul and Griffin, respectively, according to the newest version of L.A.’s game notes.
“We’re going home, all they’ve done is win two games at home just like we won two games at home,” said Rivers. “We’ve been in adverse situations all year with guys out but guys have come through and I expect us to do that at our place.”
And we’re back. Less than 12 hours after the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers at the Moda Center in Game Four to knot the first round series at two games apiece, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studio for the second time in 24 hours to record another edition of the Rip City Report, hot off the mp3 presses…
On this edition, we discuss Portland’s win in Game Four, the monumental shift in the series due to Chris Paul breaking a bone in his right hand, other Clippers injuries and how they affect the series going forward, Portland seizing momentum and whether or not they’re now the favorites, the slump-busting performances of Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe, Terry Stotts finishing second in Coach of the Year voting and answer your Twitter questions regarding adjustments, reporting taboos, the “Rip City” jerseys and whether CP3’s alternate egos are prepared to step in. It really is a new day.
Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard took questions from the media prior to Saturday night’s game versus Philadelphia to address undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, which will sideline the fourth-year player for the rest of the season. Leonard discussed his thought on having to sit out the remainder of the season, his future with the team, how the injury impacts his impending restricted free agency, how much time he’ll miss, what he plans on working on as he heals and being around the team even though he won’t be playing.
How do you feel after learning you’ll be out for the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery?
Meyers Leonard: I feel fine. I’m just rehabbing my shoulder. Surgery is two weeks from yesterday, on (April) 8th. It’s better, actually, that the surgery is a couple weeks out because if you strengthen your shoulder, it’s better going into surgery. I feel fine. It’s fun being around the guys. Obviously I wish I could be out there playing with them. But they kind of keep my spirits up. I’m doing fine.
Way to describe how disappointing or disheartening it was to hear you were done for the season?
Meyers Leonard: Well, it’s definitely tough to hear and tough to make that decision. I waited for (Damian Lillard) after he shot (pregame) in LA, because I wanted to talk to him about my decision. The hardest thing, No. 1, we surprised so many people this year. I feel like I was a good piece to that. And I told him, ‘Man … not only last year in the playoffs, but this year, too, just being able to play and have some success has been a lot of fun. Even back to last year’s playoffs, this is the most incredible thing I’ve really ever experienced.’ So it’s tough to know that I’m shut down. But I’m happy with the overall decision of having to get it done. I kind of knew that was maybe going to be the end result once I (hurt) it again. But I have faith in what’s going to happen. I think everything will be just fine. Get the surgery, get rehabbed and come back stronger than ever.
Being a free agent, how would you describe your future with the organization?
Meyers Leonard: I think it looks bright. I believe that I can be a key piece of the future. Obviously, (I was) drafted with Damian. Been here with Terry (Stotts). And I think that Neil (Olshey), they guys, coaches, understand what I bring. As a person, No. 1, I try to treat everybody with respect and try to have a good face for the organization, as far as just being me. And of course, as a player, I believe I have a pretty big affect when I’m out there. Certainly, there are a lot of things I can work on. But even when I’m just out there, I think I have a different affect than just being statistical.
Do you regret passing up the contract extension offer in training camp?
Meyers Leonard: Not at all.
Meyers Leonard: Because I have faith in what I do, in this team, in the future and what more I know I can do. That’s the encouraging thing. This year has been a different year for me. All of a sudden, all these new things are thrown at me. I’m on scouting reports and I’m trying to learn new things and continue to grow as a player. My teammates are trusting me to make more plays and (play well) down the stretch. I believe in what more I can do and what I’ve already kind of shown. Certainly it takes an immense amount of hard work. And I’m going to do that. I have to rehab, get this done, get this out of the way and, like I said, come back stronger than ever.
Is there a similar uncertainty from when you broke your foot (in college)?
Meyers Leonard: No. There’s not really any uncertainty right now. I met with Dr. ElAttrache in Los Angeles, he’s very well known, probably the top shoulder guy in the country. I could obviously tell he really knows his stuff and I know he’s going to do a really good job, going to be able to help me with my thought process on rehab. Our training staff is unbelievable, and they have been, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to come back, again, stronger than ever.
Jason Quick had mentioned you’ll be out 6 to 8 months. Is that accurate?
Meyers Leonard: Yeah, that’s accurate. Obviously there’s a process to it: not doing anything to being able to lift more and do things like that and then getting on the court, individual workouts, then light contact, then working my way back in in, I don’t know, three-on-three, then back to playing. The number seems, and I guess the length of time, seems pretty substantial, but there’s other things I can do. I always try to find a positive in ‘Why did this happen? Why did I have to shut it down? Why is my shoulder messed up?’ Work on my leg strength, keep my cardio up as much as I can, work on my core strength, work on my middle game, watch more film, try to watch guys like Dirk (Nowitzki). Figure out how does he use his shooting ability to get off shots against bigs, against guards? How does he cause havoc for the defense? So there’s a lot of things I can continue to work on even though I’m going to be totally shut down, as far as my upper body goes, shooting the ball and things like that. But I’m optimistic, I’m encouraged about my future and I just have to remain positive and understand that everything is going to be just fine. Just go with the flow.
Have you ever missed that much time due to injury?
Meyers Leonard: No, absolutely not. I’ve been in a boot before because of my foot. Obviously the first dislocation in November I missed (seven games over 17 days). Aside from my ankle my rookie year, maybe that many days. But I’m not worried about it. Bike workouts, running when I can even though I’ll be pretty immobile and just doing anything I can to stay sharp mentally and do as much as I can physically.
Was it the labrum? What was the damage that was done?
Meyers Leonard: My labrum is torn and then that’s pretty much it. I have just some ligament damage. He’ll fix it up, he’s very optimistic about surgery and rehab and everything. So am I. Again, he’s really good at what he does and I’m just going to follow Dr. ElAttrache’s lead and our training staff because I fully trust them.
Do you feel confident that you haven’t played your last game in a Blazers uniform? Is it your goal to play and hope to remain here?
Meyers Leonard: Yeah, absolutely. I was drafted here, again, I’ve been with Terry the entire time, Neil obviously drafted me, being here with now our franchise player Damian. The group that we have, young, up-and-coming, very encouraging considering people thought, what, we’d win 26.5 games? I don’t know when we won that one but that was a while back. So the future is bright here and I truly hope that I can be a big part of it.
Will you stick around the team for the stretch run?
Meyers Leonard: Absolutely. My surgery is on the 8th and I’ve got to do some check-ups and be in L.A. probably 10 days or so post-surgery. But that means that when we make the playoffs, we’ll be on the road probably for the first two games, so I should be able to come back and see the playoffs games, and I’m going to be at every game until then. Being around these guys keeps my spirit up. It’s fun to be around the, encourage them, talk to the young guys, be out there. Just to see them play, it’s hard to not be out there, I can admit that. But it is what it is.