In good news, it appears as if Nicolas Batum’s MRI yesterday came back negative. Details have been and still are sketchy, but what was originally reported to be a right foot injury looks like it was actually a right ankle injury. This makes sense since the original description said that his foot had no range of motion.
This new injury is coupled with the fact that Batum has been dealing with an avulsion fracture of his left middle finger since January 4th, when he hurt it against the 76ers. That injury apparently took a turn for the worse last week before the game against the Thunder, when there were legitimate concerns that he could not play due to swelling.
When it’s all said and done, Batum has done an admirable job of trooping along, despite the hardships. I have already detailed just how much trouble finger injuries can cause, but in short: they can really muck up every phase of the game, whether it’s passing, dribbling, shooting, or rebounding. Every time Batum is touching the ball, I can assure you that his broken finger is not happy about it, and letting him know that.
The ankle injury is harder to gauge, since for the most part the team kept it under wraps. The MRI, and the original injury announcement for that matter, seemed to come out of nowhere. While I am by no means a medical expert, I’ve had my share of injuries these past years, which included three MRIs. And let me tell you, it’s not a small decision to get an MRI.
An MRI isn’t a quick and simple process, like say an X-ray, which is in and out. Mine were about 30 minutes long, and they involve laying in a narrow tube while being serenaded by an awful, grating cacophony of sirens and beeps. While pro teams are certainly more likely to do an MRI as only a “precaution,” it still would never happen without good reason.
This is all to say that even though Batum’s MRI officially came back “negative,” the fact that he even had one done indicates that the problem was more than minor. Again, when paired with the lingering finger injury, some of his recent games, like last night’s five point, three assist, three rebound clunker, are more forgivable. The guy obviously wants to play, and is willing to do so through pain.
Batum’s jack of all trades reputation has been cemented for a while now, but sometimes it still flies under the radar just how unique he is. There are exactly four players in the league averaging at least 10 points, 5.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds a game right now. Batum is one. The others are LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Michael Carter Williams, which is pretty special company. Batum brings a rare skillset to the table, and the Blazers are noticeably better for it.
Given this value, one must wonder if sitting Batum and forcing him to rest may be the best long-term decision, as David explored yesterday. The Blazers play only two games in the next six days, so this appears to be an ideal time for Batum to get both the ankle and finger back on track without impacting the team too negatively. This foresight could pay large dividends later, as the playoffs look to very much be in the Blazers’ future.
The decision will ultimately come down to Head Coach Terry Stotts, the team training staff, and obviously Batum himself. No matter what course of action they decide to pursue, Batum must be commended for his commitment thus far.