Batum: I'm Not the Same Since I Hurt My Wrist
It's not getting any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers. Tuesday night they lost at their place to the Memphis Grizzles 102-97, dimming their playoff chances with each loss.
Four games separate the Trail Blazers (29-34) from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. And in order for them to make up ground, these injuries that keep occurring are going to have to take a pause.
“You're right, the teams that usually make a push towards the playoffs this time of year pretty much have healthy guys,” Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries said. “I'm not saying we can't do it because I believe we still can. But we need to turn it around now.”
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with a game-high 28 points while pulling down 10 boards. From the outside looking in, he was dominating the game effortlessly. That couldn't be so far from the truth.
In the first quarter, Aldridge was slapped on his left hand, leaving it extremely swollen (he was already dealing with a sprained right ankle). Even though he made his mark on Tuesday's game, he was battling the pain throughout.
“It's hurting like hell. It's still throbbing,” Aldridge told CSNNW.com after the game. “I'm going to go home and ice it, take some Aleve and hopefully I'll be better tomorrow.”
Aldridge took a Fluroscan and results were negative. The Trail Blazers are calling it a bruise and he isn't expected to miss any time because of it.
Nicolas Batum, still nursing a sore right wrist, was held scoreless for three quarters. His first point of the game came off of a technical foul free throw with 8:56 left in the fourth. He finished the evening with three points on 0-for-five from the floor.
In the locker room after the game, Batum was slouched in his locker stall with an ice bag over his wrist. He was clearly frustrated and in deep thought, knowing reporters were coming his way with questions regarding his performance.
“I can't sit out. The team needs me,” Batum said after I asked him about resting. “I don't want to let the team down. Wes is playing through his [injuries] and LaMarcus is pushing through his. I got to keep playing.”
Batum says the pain from 1-10 is a seven, but progresses to an eight or nine throughout the course of a game, limiting his effectiveness. All he is capable of doing right now is being a facilitator and rebounding. And teams are starting to figure out that he isn't willing to shoot the ball, making his passes predictable and and ineffective.
Rookie backup center Meyers Leonard is bothered by a right ankle sprain that he has injured twice. He made his return Tuesday after sitting out Sunday's game in New Orleans. He is one aggravation away from being out for the season.
Wesley Matthews is dealing with a sore left leg, a sprained right elbow and two sprained thumbs. You can find him hobbling on the court for 30 plus minutes as he gives his all.
In an 82-game season, all 30 NBA teams will have their share of injuries to deal with. It's part of the grueling season. But even Matthews admits that this is unusual territory.
“I can't say I've been a part of a team that had so many injuries in one season,” Matthews said. “This is only the second team I've been with, so I don't know if it's normal, but it's something we have to fight through.”
And fight, they shall.
This team prides themselves on persevering and resilience. Just when you think they're done for, they manage to defeat an opponent they have no business beating.
I don't expect them to give up on the playoffs. I'm just not sure their bodies will hold up to allow them to make a realistic run.
“I can't speak on speak on behalf of everybody, but I'm not going to stop fighting and I'd like to say that they won't either,” Matthews said.