Report: Hornets’ Nicolas Batum out for rest of first round due to foot strain

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Nicolas Batum sprained his ankle early in the fourth quarter of the Hornets’ Game 2 loss to the Heat Wednesday.

Now the starting small forward and key cog for Charlotte may be out for the rest of the first round (likely meaning the playoffs), reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The injury looked nasty when it happened.

After Wednesday’s game, Hornets coach Steve Clifford had said it’s very unlikely Batum plays in Game 3 Saturday, but the extended absence would be bad news for an already struggling Hornets team down 2-0 to the Heat in the series. He’s a key defender on the wing, plus his ball-handling skills allow Kemba Walker to work off the ball at times. Through two games of this series, the Hornets were +4.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court.  Charlotte needs to sweep the next two games at home to have a real chance, something that just got a lot more difficult.

Batum will be a free agent this summer and is a player the casual fan may not know but is highly coveted by GMs around the league — he can defend the wing, hit threes, and plays a high IQ game. Batum is going to get PAID and it will not be cheap for the Hornets to retain his services.