Charlotte Hornets guard Nic Batum will miss at least six to eight weeks after suffering a torn ligament in his left elbow in Wednesday’s preseason exhibition against the Pistons in Detroit Wednesday.
Batum was injured in the first minute, leaving the court in severe pain. He rushed to the locker room for treatment and did not play the rest of the game.
A magnetic resonance imaging Thursday in Charlotte revealed a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament. The Hornets are investigating different treatment options, including possible surgery.
This particular injury is not common among basketball players. In baseball pitchers, it is typically associated with Tommy John surgery. However, Batum obviously doesn’t put the same stress on his elbow as a pitcher.
With Batum out, Hornets coach Steve Clifford told the Observer late Thursday afternoon he plans to turn to Jeremy Lamb as a starter.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing; Nic was having such a good offseason,” Clifford said of the injury. “But that’s why you have a 14- or 15-man roster. Jeremy has had a good summer. Now is his opportunity to expand on that.”
This could mean additional minutes for rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. Small forward Treveon Graham is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Clifford said at practice Batum was in severe pain immediately following the injury. Batum flew back to Charlotte wearing a sling.
“He just got tangled up. It was one of those kind of contact/collision plays where his arm got stuck between two guys,” Clifford said.
Batum signed a five-year, $120 million contract with the Hornets in July 2016. He is scheduled to make nearly $21 million this season. He averaged 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season, but shot poorly (.403 from the field and .333 from 3-point range).
He was upbeat on his Twitter account, regarding this injury.
“It’s my left arm, guys!” said Batum, who is righthanded. “Everybody knows I’m not using my left hand (that’s what the scouting report says). We have a deep roster. We’ll be fine.”
Batum was frustrated by last season, when the Hornets failed to make the playoffs, and chose not to play for the French national team over the summer to concentrate on improving his game. Batum has started 147 of a possible 164 regular-season games since the Hornets traded for him in the summer of 2015.
An ankle injury severely limited Batum in the Hornets’ seven-game playoff series loss to the Miami Heat in the spring of 2016.
Batum is a big part of this roster, particularly for his versatility and playmaking skill. He often played with the reserves last season to keep the second unit organized.
New Hornets center Dwight Howard had expressed excitement about playing with Batum, since Batum’s playmaking reminded him of former Orlando Magic teammates Hedo Turkoglu.
The Hornets are already without two players this preseason. Backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams has yet to be cleared for contact drills, because of knee pain, and Graham’s hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out at least another week.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell