TUALATIN, Ore. -- These days one can walk into the Trail Blazers practice gym and immediately notice who didn't participate in the daily workout. The injury report is a who's who of Blazer starters.
Wesley Matthews is in a walking boot after sustaining a badly-sprained ankle in Sunday's loss to Dallas. Nic Batum is still battling through a shoulder issue. J.J. Hickson was added to the list with a lower back strain. All three players are likely to miss Wednesday's game at the Rose Garden against the Lakers. (7pm on KGW)
On the other side of town, the Timbers don't have the same number of injuries, but the one they do have is more serious. David Horst suffered a tibial fracture on Saturday night in Portland's win over Houston. Successful surgery was conducted Monday to repair the bone, but he will be sidelined for up to six months, which pretty much wipes out the rest of the 2013 season.
In their 43-year-history the Blazers have never started four rookies to begin a game. They're about to make history Wednesday night.
"Don't ask me about the starting lineup today," Coach Terry Stotts joked after practice. "Ask me tomorrow."
The Timbers are a little clearer--not to mention more experienced--with their injury replacement options. Andrew Jean Baptiste, the second-year player from the University of Connecticut, subbed in for Horst and played well, helping to keep a "clean sheet" as they like to say in soccer with a shutout win.
"He's been playing," said goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. "I think he's played in every game, so it was nothing new to him and nothing new for us. We just adjusted and kept going."
The Blazers will hope to keep going with Will Barton now leading the way. The rookie from Memphis, who unlike Baptiste has not been playing a lot this season, ignited the Rose Garden crowd and his own career with Sunday's 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. It was one for the record books literally, as no rookie had put up numbers that robust since Grant Hill in the 1990's.
"I wasn't trying to figure out who was the only other player to do that," Barton said. "I had no clue about Grant Hill. I don't even think about that. I'm just thinking about building off that and trying to get better every day."
Stotts was asked if a coach has to be careful after a young player has a breakout game, if he has to watch the minutes and the situations to guard against a big drop-off in production during the following game.
"Not at this time of year," the coach responded. "Will played the whole second half, and never showed any signs of fatigue. We only have one back-to-back (set of games) left, so that's not really a big concern right now."
Given the Blazers depleted roster, even if Stotts had concerns, it might not matter. His choices are limited. And the Lakers are coming to town.
"When you're going up against Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, these guys grew up watching them," said Stotts, "so there's a lot of motivation playing them."
A lot of motivation. And a whole lot of rookies.