Charlotte Hornets guard Nic Batum is constantly aggravating his left elbow injury, and it is significantly affecting his performance.
Batum detailed the situation in an exclusive interview with the Observer Saturday, following the Hornets’ 110-99 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Batum played, despite being listed as doubtful for that game, but he sat out the fourth quarter due to the pain he’s experiencing.
“Since I got back three weeks ago, it’s really, really bothered my game. It’s really bothered me,” Batum told the Observer. “It’s (affected) my performance. I can’t be myself.
“When I’m out there, I know what to do, but I can’t do it.”
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Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow during the Hornets’ first preseason exhibition Oct. 4 in Detroit. There was concern he would require surgery that would likely have ended his season. However, a specialist in Dallas diagnosed Batum and determined he could recover through rehabilitation. He missed six weeks before playing his first regular-season game Nov. 15 in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Batum has made 12 starts since then. He missed a game in Cleveland Nov. 24 with more soreness in his elbow. He is averaging 10.1 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds. His shooting has been poor: 37 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.
Batum said there’s no question his performance is directly impeded by his elbow injury.
“I can’t really do what I want, what I need, to help this team win because my elbow is really bothering me,” Batum said.
Batum recently said even at its best, his left elbow feels “weird” following the injury. He plays with heavy padding on the joint, surrounded by bandaging.
“Always,” Batum said of playing with pain. “Since I got back, I’ve not been 100 percent yet. Not even close to 100 percent. It’s always there.
“Every contact: I grab someone, or someone grabs me, or someone hits me. I get (pain) every game. The last game (teammate) Mangok (Matiang) asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ I tried to hide it, because it’s the fourth (quarter) and I’m trying to get through it. I know it’s going to be like that all year long.”
Batum re-signed with the Hornets two summers ago on a near-maximum five-year, $120 million contract. The Hornets have lost seven of their last eight games, falling to 9-16. Their next two games are on the road (Oklahoma City and Houston), where the Hornets are 1-10 this season.
“I know I can do more to help this team, but it really is affecting my performance every night,” Batum said. “I can practice, I can go through treatment every day, but (in-game) contact is different.”
It’s conceivable Batum, a 10-year NBA veteran, could still have corrective surgery on the elbow, perhaps after the season.
“We’ve got to talk about it with the staff. I don’t really know yet,” Batum said. “A procedure this summer? Maybe.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell