Charlotte Hornets prepare for Game 3 against the Miami Heat
Maybe not every timeout but definitely during most, injured Hornets forward Nic Batum would find a member of Charlotte’s training staff and start begging.
“I’ve got to be back Monday,” Batum would say, repeating that line several times Saturday night.
Batum felt the energy of the Time Warner Cable Arena crowd. He saw his teammates step up in his absence. He experienced Charlotte’s first playoff victory against Miami – a 96-80 win that shrinks the deficit to 2-1 with Game 4 on Monday.
“Do everything you can to bring me back Monday,” Batum would tell a trainer. “I’ve got to be back.”
Batum admits the truth, though. He doesn’t know if his sprained left ankle will be healed enough for him to play Monday.
It’s still swollen, he said. His left foot is so large that he can’t even wear a sneaker, though he promises to try Sunday morning.
Batum averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in his first season with the Hornets. He played his way into what surely will be at or near a max contract for next season, whether that’s in Charlotte or elsewhere.
He was the only Hornet with a pulse in the Game 1 throttling at Miami. He struggled some in Game 2 before he left the game early in the fourth quarter with a gnarly-looking ankle twist.
“Well when you watch the video you’re very concerned,” Batum said, looking in the eyes of media members nodding their heads in agreement. “And when I watch it, I’m like, ‘I’m really lucky.’”
The swelling has gone down markedly since it happened Wednesday night. Batum has been in a walking boot ever since.
Neither he nor Hornets coach Steve Clifford is willing to put a date on when Batum can return to the floor. Even hearing Batum repeat his pleas to the training staff, it seemed unlikely that he’ll play in Game 4.
But these are the playoffs, and high-level players regularly find some elixir that allows them to play in the postseason.
“You work all year long to play those games and when an injury like that happens it’s tough,” Batum said. “I trust my teammates and I trust the coaching staff. I’ll try to get back as quickly as possible. But when you play all year long and to be in this position, it’s tough to not be on the court.”
Batum has been getting up to five hours of treatment since the injury. That will likely continue Sunday and Monday before the 7 p.m. tipoff.
Batum is not making predictions on his return, but Saturday’s win extending the series doesn’t hurt his chances.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to be back Monday. I don’t know that,” Batum said. “My foot is still huge.
“But I loved the crowd and excitement and I think we’re back in this series.”