Batum’s knee injury is just bruise

Blazers forward, and fans too, feared something worse

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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TUALATIN, Ore. -- Sometimes, when people can’t sleep, they kill some time by watching TV.

Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum did just that early Tuesday morning, except it wasn’t Law and Order or CSI -- it was footage of his fourth-quarter fall against the Utah Jazz.

“I probably watched it 20 times,” the Frenchman said.

Before Tuesday’s practice, Batum underwent MRI on the right knee he injured in the final of minute of Monday’s loss to the Jazz. The tests revealed that it is no more than a contusion and that Batum is day-to-day. He thought it would be much worse.

“After what happened with (Brandon) Roy and Greg (Oden), I thought it was my turn,” Batum said. “I thought I was done for the season.”

It has become the Trail Blazers way in years past to lose a piece long-term due to a knee injury. Roy’s knees forced him to retire. Oden’s knees have kept him out for all but 82 games of his career.

Jeff Pendergraph went down in a preseason game vs. Utah last year, and Elliot Williams missed his rookie season due to surgery.

Batum, of course, should return to the court much more quickly, but an exact date is hard to pinpoint.

He will definitely miss Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. And while he will make the trip to Sacramento for Thursday’s game vs. the Kings, he is still unsure whether he will take the court, saying “I won’t play unless I’m pain-free.”

Batum has said that before 2012 is a big year for him. But this goes beyond the fact that he’s trying to land a big contract this offseason.

When the injury initially occurred, he said the first thing that went through his mind is that he might miss the Olympics in London.

“That’s the main goal,” said Batum, adding that he received a 4 a.m. text from fellow Frenchman and San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, who had similar concerns. “I was scared.”

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Batum’s Olympic endeavors should proceed as planned. But Wednesday, the Blazers are going to have to adjust without him.

Portland coach Nate McMillan did not say specifically who would see more court time because of Batum’s injury, but suggested it could be guard Elliot Williams or forward Luke Babbitt. More than anything, he just looked relieved that this would not be a long-term problem.

“Looking at the tape last night, it looked like his knee really buckled,” McMillan said. “It just looked bad on tape. The good news is, it’s just a contusion.”

FELTON EXPECTED TO KEEP SHOOTING: Blazers point guard Raymond Felton came into this season a career 34 percent 3-point shooter. So far this year, he’s at a meager 19.7 percent after having missed 57 of his 71 attempts.

The Utah defense was clearly packing the paint for much of Monday night’s game, daring Portland to gun from outside -- particularly Felton.

And gun Felton did -- five times from 3-point distance, in which he made only one. Nevertheless, McMillan says to keep hoisting.

“Those are wide open shots, shots that guys are going to make,” McMillan said. “You gotta keep shooting. If you don’t have (confidence), you got to work to get it.”

ANYONE COULD SEE IT: After Tuesday’s practice, a cameraman told Marcus Camby that it seemed as though each Blazer was reluctant to step up and be the go-to-guy late against Utah. Camby didn’t disagree, saying only: “You sound like Coach.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com