Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bigger Back Home

Nicolas Batum always seems to play it cool. Whether it's on the court at the Rose Garden or on the streets of Paris, Nic has a quiet confidence which is evident in the way he carries himself. He's just so ... smooth. As Channing Frye once put it, Nic just has that "quiet swag," which sometimes seems to border on indifference. I don't think that's the case, but it's easy to perceive it as such.

But get Nic talking about the way he's been received in his homeland, and you can quickly see that there are many things he cares about. The shy, spotlight-shunning boy we've come to know in Portland is replaced by a man ready to receive his closeup. The notoriety Nic deserves from his countrymen is starting to manifest, and he's feeling the love.

"Last year I was a star on (Le Mans, Batum's former club team), but now I’m a superstar when I come back to France," said Batum. "I can’t walk two steps without someone wanting a picture or something. It was crazy. It’s fun. I love it."

That desire for and acceptance of attention is something we haven't seen out of Batum in the United States. It's not as if he was ducking interviews or big-timing requests for autographs, but he certainly wasn't making any attempts to draw attention to himself, at least off the court. But in France, among the people he shares a history with, Nic is excited to come out of his shell. He's down to try on a little celebrity, just to see how it fits.

"My family told me ‘Nic, in France you’re a star right now,’" said Batum. "I didn’t know that, but when I came back to France I think I did three or four or five TV shows. I went with Tony Parker to Roland Garros (site of the French Open). I think I made ten radio interviews. It was crazy. Everybody wants to talk to me. It’s fun. I like it."

Trail Blazers fans should be encouraged by Nic's new-found celebrity. It's good for players to have a little ego, and there's nothing the love and support from your countrymen to fuel that confidence. It's all but necessary to carry a bit of swag when you're lining up against some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen, so the fact that Nic's ego is being stroked a bit back home is undoubtedly a good thing.

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