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Shootaround Notes: Injury Updates, Stotts Opposed To A Four-Point Line

The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround this morning at the Pepsi Center in Denver in preparation for their game tonight against the Nuggets (tipoff at 6 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM). Some notes …

· Despite traveling with the team to Denver, Trail Blazers starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (left groin strain) will not play in Tuesday night’s game versus the Nuggets. It is not known if he underwent the evaluation he was scheduled to undergo after the team announced on Feb. 18 that he would sit out at least a week. Head coach Terry Stotts said only that there was “no update” on Aldridge’s status.

Aldridge was seen on court shooting jumpers after the team’s shootaround on Tuesday. Stotts said after the team’s practice on Monday that they would have to ease Aldridge back into the rotation since he hasn’t played a competitive game in roughly two weeks.

· Nicolas Batum is close to being able to take off the splint he’s been wearing on his left (non-shooting) middle finger since fracturing it in the fourth quarter of the Jan. 4 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Moda Center.

“I’m a week away from taking it off and not wearing it every day, just for games,” said Batum. “It should be six weeks, but we broke (the splint) so I have to wear it one or two more weeks.”

Batum suffered a minor setback when he aggravated the injury in Portland’s 126-113 loss to the Rockets in Houston on Jan. 20, but has had no issues with the finger since.

“I’m good now,” said Batum. “I’ve got no pain when I play. It gets hit, I got no pain. I haven’t bent my finger for weeks now, so that’s going to be the next part. After I take it off I have to do a little rehab and see how it feels. But I have to play with (the splint) for the next three weeks anyway. Off the court I can take it off, start to do normal life and stuff without it. ”

· While Meyers Leonard (sprained left ankle) didn’t travel with the team to Denver, fellow Trail Blazers big man Joel Freeland, who suffered a right MCL sprain in the Feb. 11 loss to the Thunder at the Moda Center did make the trip despite being out for at least the next three weeks.

“I feel okay, it’s just the knee is real unstable at the moment,” said Freeland. “Slight movements I’m doing I can feel it, like a slight clicking and an opening up of the knee. But other than that, there’s no pain. I’m working out, I’m doing a lot of bike work, just trying to stay in shape as much as I can. That’s pretty much it.”

While there might be instability in his knee (the MCL is one of the ligaments that helps stabilize the knee, particularly when moving laterally), Freeland said there isn’t much pain associated with the sprain, especially when wearing a brace, which, somewhat ironically, makes the injury more frustrating to deal with.

“If I’m injured, if it doesn’t hurt, I’m ready to go,” said Freeland. “Pain has always been my guide to if I’m ready or not. Now I don’t really have a guide. The only guide I have is the strange feeling I have in the knee where it kind of opens up. They said that’s really my pain, that’s what I have to go by.”

The initial prognosis that Freeland would miss four to eight weeks with the injury has not changed, though he did say he was told by doctors that he was healing faster than expected.

“I’m hoping I’m going to wake up one day and I’m going to feel a difference,” said Freeland, “like a difference in the structure and how it feels stability-wise and I’ll go from there.”

· Finally, Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com reported Tuesday morning that the league has had very loose, exploratory discussions of adding a four-point line, though the NBA has since put out a release stating that ESPN.com, “chose to make a story that doesn’t exist.”

Which is just fine by Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who was not enthused at the idea of adding another range beyond the three-point line.

“I’d be opposed,” said Stotts. “To give a halfcourt shot four points? You play good defense (for a possession) and a guy throws one in, I think it’s probably too much of a gimmick.”

One might assume that Stotts, whose offensive system heavily features three-point shots, would be supportive of an extra reward for long-range shots, especially considering, as Haberstroh points out, that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is shooting 60 percent on shots between 28 and 32 feet this season. But Stotts says that, while it might work for his team, it wouldn’t necessarily be good for the game.

“There’s always been coaches that kind of lobby for rules changes that benefit their team,” said Stotts, “but I think you’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of the game.”

While he might not care of the idea of a four-point line, Stotts was adamant that it is vital for the NBA to continue to look at ways to improve the game, as the league did over a decade ago when rules regarding handchecking, backcourt violations and illegal defense were changed.

“I think you always have to look at different things that might improve the game,” said Stotts. “I think discussion is very important. I think the game is good but, we made radical changes to the game in 2001 and it was for the better and the game today, I think, is thriving because of the big time shift in the defensive rules. I think that was a watershed moment for the NBA. So you need to have those discussions in an effort to improve the game.”