By John Hollinger
PORTLAND – You’re not going to believe this, but at what may be the Trail Blazers’ final practice of an almost comically injury-riddled season, the main topic was … injuries.
“We got out of the practice without any injures, so [it was] a good day,” said coach Nate McMillan, without the slightest hint of irony.
Brandon Roy practiced with the first team, and we’ll get to him in a second. But first, we should point out that two other Blazers didn’t practice today, Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum. All the attention on Roy has deflected coverage of those two, but the maladies of those two starters have been equally problematic.
While both expect to start tomorrow, they could be limited. Camby is battling a sore left ankle, and it’s caused his effectiveness to take a hit since his monstrous efforts late in the regular against Oklahoma City and in Game 1 in Phoenix.
Batum sat out to avoid taking a hit on his strained right shoulder. He said it’s sore and bothers him a bit when he shoots but it’s manageable enough for him to play in Game 6.
“They preferred to put me on the court on the side,” said Batum. “The worst thing is contact, screens, so I tried to avoid that and come back tomorrow.”
The problem is any hit to the shoulder presents a risk, and that’s a double problem because of how Portland wants to use him. Ideally, the Blazers would like to put Batum on Steve Nash, but the Suns run pick-and-rolls on nearly every play –- which means they’re putting Batum’s shoulder at risk of smashing into a screener on nearly every trip.
Batum hurt himself on a screen in Game 5, causing a setback that sent him to the sideline icing his shoulder, which is why he played only 20 minutes. It's also why we didn’t see Batum on Nash in Game 5, and why we probably won’t see it before the fourth quarter Thursday.
As for Roy, he announced he was starting Game 6, which stole any mystery McMillan hoped to achieve by saying he’d make the decision tomorrow.
“I’m going to try to leave it all out there tomorrow,” said Roy. “No limits on minutes, starting, so I just have to play as hard as I can and get back to scoring in the 20s, because I think it’s going to be needed.”
Sounds like the decision has already been made for you, Coach. But while Roy labored to a 10-point performance in Game 5, both player and coach insist conditioning is a greater worry than his knee, which underwent surgery just 12 days ago.
“He looked fine,” said McMillan. “No problems, no pain. The other night I took him out of the game because they were up by 25 points and I didn’t want to risk injury in the fourth quarter. I saw him slip and fall so it was like, ‘Let’s get him out.’”