Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum will be a game-time decision for the second straight game after re-aggravating his strained right shoulder in the second quarter of Thursday night’s loss to the Suns, according to John Hollinger’s Twitter account and The Oregonian’s Jason Quick.
Quick wrote in an online chat: “Batum incidentally is being listed as a ‘game-time decision’ … he was not made available to the media today — probably in fear that he would blurt out that he was playing like he did the morning of Game 3. The only thing the Blazers would say is that he was ‘sore.'”
Batum missed 45 games in the regular season due to shoulder surgery and had to leave Game 2 after he collided with Steve Nash at the end of the third quarter.
He was clearly limited when he did play in Game 3 and surely wouldn’t be 100 percent if he were to play tomorrow night. But the injury-depleted Blazers need him now more than ever, especially considering how important he’s been to this team when he’s been able to suit up.
Although Batum isn’t a superstar by any means, he plays a huge role on this Portland team. The Frenchman is arguably Portland’s best three-point shooter — 40.9 percent, 1.5 per game on the season — and has the slashing ability to make the Suns pay for continually double teaming LaMarcus Aldridge. The 6-foot-8, lanky wing is also Portland’s best perimeter defender and could possibly be the player to cool off Jason Richardson.
He showed his worth in Game 1, his only injury-free game, when he posted 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 3-of-8 from three, while finishing with the game’s highest plus-minus (plus 16). But Batum’s success dates back to the last month and a half of the regular season.
When he was inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 23 against the Nets, Portland not coincidentally won 10 of its next 12 games while averaging 102.3 points per game — about four points higher than the Blazers’ regular season average. Batum averaged 11.5 points during that stretch (while shooting 47.8 percent from distance), including a career-high 31-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist, three-steal effort Feb. 27 against the Timberwolves. Even after that 12-game stretch, the Blazers finished the season winning eight of their last 10 games all with Batum in the starting lineup before resting key players in the season finale.
Portland is already missing many weapons offensively, so if Batum can’t go this team may struggle to break 80. Not only is he a huge contributer in the three-point category, but he can also try his hand at slowing down J-Rich. Needless to say, Batum is and has been very important to this Blazers team, and if his shoulder keeps him out of Game 4, expect another convincing Suns victory.
No suspension for STAT
The Suns were informed this afternoon that Amare Stoudemire will not receive a one-game suspension for the elbow he threw at Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge late in the third quarter of Thursday’s 108-89 Game 3 victory, according to The Arizona Republic.
After Kevin Garnett received a one-game suspension for throwing an elbow at Quentin Richardson in Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics series, there was speculation that Stoudemire might be destined for the same fate. But the league and the Suns didn’t see it that way, and STAT was only charged with a Flagrant 1.
“That’s nothing,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told the paper. “To me, that’s just playoff basketball.”
Suns “determined” to keep STAT?
The Suns and Stoudemire are making progress toward a contract extension, NBA FanHouse reported Friday, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.
The report said that Phoenix offered an extension last week that according to a source close to STAT is “getting closer [financially] to where they should be.” FanHouse’s sources said the Suns are “determined” to re-sign Amare.
Suns GM Steve Kerr told FanHouse, “We’re working on that, and we’re hopeful that he’s going to be here a long time.”
The Suns can offer Stoudemrie a three-year extension through 2013-14 that would kick in after his $17.7 million option next year and that would be worth a total of $64.7 million. If the Suns get close enough to that number (or offer it), then I would bet that Amare remains a Phoenix Sun.
At the same time, of course Phoenix wants to re-sign him after his second-half tear. The question is if the team wants to do so at the price it will likely take, and on that count we’re far away from a resolution.
- Michael Schwartz