The Portland Trail Blazers held practice today at their facility in Tualatin in preparation of Tuesday night’s game against the Kings in Sacramento (tipoff schedule for 7 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM).
Injuries, both returning from them and playing through them, was the big topic during the post-practice media availability. Some notes …
· After two months of physical therapy and two games with the Idaho Stampede, Trail Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum will be on the active list for the first time in his NBA career Tuesday night against the Kings. There’s no guarantee that McCollum will actually play against the Kings, but he will be in uniform for the first time this season.
“I’m just trying to work my way back in now,” said McCollum. “I know I’ll be activated (against the Kings) but that’s just the first step in the process of trying to get acclimated with the team. It’s good to get out there, run with the guys. We had some five-on-five stuff, kind of test my legs out a little bit.”
McCollum averaged 18.5 points on 47 percent shooting in two games with the Stampede. His minutes were limited, but the goal of finding out how ready he was after not playing competitive basketball since breaking his foot in his final game at Lehigh in January 2013 was achieved.
“I thought I played okay,” said McCollum of his two games in Bouise. “I did some things well, didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but I’ve been shooting it well in practices, stuff like that, so not too concerned about that. I was just really focusing on different movements, testing out some different cuts and kind of seeing what I can get away with out there.”
McCollum says he feels like his foot is holding up well after he underwent a non-surgical ultrasound procedure to repair the a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot.
“It feels pretty good,” said McCollum of his left foot. “I don’t notice it. I’m moving pretty well. None of the guys have noticed anything, any setbacks. I can dunk off of it and do all that stuff. It feels fresh. It’s been resting for a while.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said a decision has not been made as to whether McCollum will actually see the court in Tuesday’s game at Sleep Train Arena. Minutes have been hard to come by for any player outside of the Stotts’ nine-man rotation, so McCollum might have to wait for the right situation to arise before he makes his actual debut.
“I don’t know if he’s really ready to come back and play,” said Stotts. “I thought his two games in Boise were good, he’s had good practices. The decision will be made when it’s made. I think the most important thing is that we get a win in Sacramento."
If the Trail Blazers didn’t have one of the best records in the Western Conference, maybe McCollum gets a shot earlier rather than later. But with Portland playing as well as they are, it might be tough for the rookie out of Lehigh to find minutes in the rotation, but according to McCollum, that’s better than the alternative.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to play in the NBA and play on a good team,” said McCollum. “All that other stuff will take care of itself, the playing time, the health, all that stuff. When you do things the right way and you get your opportunity, you just have to take advantage of it.”
· On the other end of the spectrum, Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum practiced Monday after suffering an avulsion fracture to his left middle finger late in Saturday night’s loss to the 76ers. While the fracture is on Batum’s left, non-shooting hand, he says it’s still going to take some time getting use to playing with a piece of plastic taped to the top of his middle finger.
“The doctor say I’ve got wear (a splint) nonstop for six weeks and I’ve got to play with it ten weeks, so it’s different,” said Batum. “It’s kind of different, feels weird sometimes. This was my first time practicing with it. It’s my left hand, not my shooting hand, but I can shoot the ball pretty well but when I’ve got to catch it and dribble with it, it’s kind of different. It will be an adjustment for me but I’ll be okay.”
While Batum is listed as probable and said he will play on Tuesday, it’s hard to tell just how limited he is going to be by the injury.
“He had a good practice today,” said Stotts of Batum. “He went through contact, made some threes. He looked much more comfortable than actually I had anticipated. Obviously it’s bothering him, but as far as limitation, that’s probably up to him.”
Batum insisted that he would be able to play, though he said he’ll pull himself from the game if the pain becomes unbearable. The other issue is dribbling, as Batum said after practice on Monday that he wasn’t able to handle the ball with his left hand. Nevertheless, he fully intends on playing unrestricted minutes Tuesday night in Sacramento.
“It should be okay,” said Batum. “I can try to adjust my game. I dribble with my right hand anyway. I don’t really use my left hand right now so I’ve got to adjust that too, but we should be okay.”
And if it's not okay, Stotts says the team will be ready nonetheless.
"We'll have to make a decision, we'll talk about the best way to go, but as long as Nic feels like he can go, we'll plan on doing that," said Stotts. "Obviously if for some reason he's not able to play, we've got a lot of guys. We've got CJ and Will and Allen and Dorell, we have a lot of wing players. Obviously we're better when Nic plays, but in any event, we'll be ready."