The Trail Blazers on Wednesday will simultaneously try avoid their longest losing streak in seven years and spoil the Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff aspirations.And they very well might attempt both while making franchise history.As his starting lineup continues to be ravaged by injuries, coachTerry Stotts is contemplating starting four rookies when the Lakers visit the Rose Garden Wednesday night. If it happens, it would be the first time in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.How did it get to this point?Starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews sprained his right ankle Sunday night in aloss to the Dallas Mavericks and already has been ruled out against the Lakers. Starting small forward Nicolas Batum was able to shoot Tuesday, but continues to deal with the effects of a superior labral tear in his right shoulder and is listed as doubtful. Meanwhile, starting center JJ Hickson skipped Tuesday’s practice with lower back pain and is considered questionable.And while the availability of the trio looks grim, their replacements look young. Stotts on Tuesday said he was leaning toward starting rookie Will Barton in place of Matthews at shooting guard. Rookie Victor Claver has started the last three games for Batum and rookie center Meyers Leonard has started in place of Hickson or LaMarcus Aldridge six times this season. Add them to rookie point guard Damian Lillard and the four-rookie starting lineup is complete.It could not come at a worse time for the Blazers (33-44), who have lost a season-high eight consecutive games and are trying to avoid a complete free-fall at the end of a promising season. The franchise has not endured a nine-game losing streak since the 2005-06 season, when they lost 19 of the last 20 games, including 11 in a row from March 14 to April 2The losing streak, the young starting lineup and the chance to play spoiler to a Lakers team that is frantically trying to capture the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff hunt should create an extra dose of motivation for a reeling Blazers team.Actually, Stotts said, the Lakers alone provide enough motivation.“Everybody gets up for playing the Lakers,” he said. “We realize the implications for them, what the game means for them. But when you’re going up against Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, if Steve Nash plays — these guys grew up watching them. So I think there’s certainly a lot of motivation playing them.”Matthews undergoes MRI, results negativeMatthews limped around the practice facility wearing a walking boot on his right foot Tuesday afternoon and it is unclear how long he’ll have to deal with the cumbersome protection.He underwent two magnetic resonance imaging tests on his sprained right ankle and neither revealed significant damage, including any ligament tears. Matthews said there was some soft tissue damage, however, and he planned to undergo two more MRI tests as a precaution.When asked if he thought he would play again this season, Matthews seemed prepared for the worst.“I don’t know,” he said. “(I’ll) listen to my body and see how it goes.”Batum shoots for first time in eight daysBatum did not fully return to practice Tuesday, but did participate in some post-practice shooting. He went through a series of shooting drills for about 30 minutes alongside injured teammate Elliot Williams, testing his ailing right shoulder for the first time since April 1.“It’s still sore, a little bit sore,” Batum said afterward. “Shooting at the end, I feel like my shoulder was burning.”Batum labeled himself a game-time decision. But the team is taking extra caution because the injury is in the same right shoulder that Batum had surgery on in 2009.
Edited by Bjork, April 09, 2013 - 09:58 PM.