Nicolas Batum Does Not Need Convincing
He could have blamed it on bad luck, or a curse, or the hardwood floor of the Rose Garden. But when I sat down next to Nicolas Batum to figure out what exactly happened to his left knee in the second quarter of Thursday night's loss to the Celtics, Nic chalked up his and Portland's misfortune to something else.
"I know," said Batum. "I shouldn't have cut my beard."
Those of you who follow our official team account on Twitter
, along with those of you who read Wednesday's practice report
, know I've been lobbying for Nic to stick with the hirsute look he tried out this new year. It's become a bit of a running joke between the two of us. When something bad happens, it's because he cut the beard. When something good happens, it would have been even better if he still had a beard.
But Nic, sitting at his locker explaining over and over again the details of the newest infirmity to beset the Trail Blazers to a media contingent that has had plenty of practice covering injuries, needed to be smooth, needed to be his usual cool self despite the situation. Smooth Batum, as Travis Outlaw used to call him, was calm, collected and confident in his diagnosis.
"I not really feeling like I need surgery," said Batum. "I know my body. I've got a couple of surgeries before. I think I'm going to play the next game."
A bold declaration from the young Frenchman, especially when taking into account the truly miserable track record the Trail Blazers have when it comes to knees, but a declaration he no doubt needed to make for his own sanity. There's hours and hours of alone time Nic will have to fill before having an MRI Friday morning, and he couldn't spend that time worrying about the potential of another season lost to scalpel and anesthesia. Those memories are still far too fresh.
"I don't want to miss any games," said Nic, seemingly pleading to the fates more so than answering a question. "We've got a lot of guys who have gotten hurt. We can't have another guy in a suit on the bench. I don't want to be in suit on the bench. I want to be on the court, in my jersey, and play. I don't want to miss any game. I miss too much game last year. I don't want to get knee surgery like all the guys we've got on the team. I'm sure it is nothing."
I hope he's right. No one deserves for it to be nothing more than Nic, but his description of the injury, that he couldn't jump and that he felt something stretch in his knee, is enough to give the organization and all those residing in Rip City cause for concern. Nate McMillan lamented it was "amazing" to see another player sustain a knee injury. LaMarcus Aldridge said he was "kind of numb to guys getting hurt." And they're walking without crutches. Imagine what Nic would be feeling if he allowed himself to assume the worst.
Friday morning's MRI will be here soon enough and then we'll know if this season still has a glimmer of hope or if, like Nic's beard, it will be cut down before it has a chance grow into something special.