Friday, October 2, 2009

Batum's New Attitude


It seems like almost everyone started out doubting Nicolas Batum.

After Kevin Pritchard and his staff orchestrated a trade with Houston to acquire the lanky Frenchman, the overwhelming sentiment amongst the media was that he would stay in Europe for at least another year, maybe more. People wondered whether his slight frame would allow him play the more physical NBA game. There were questions regarding a physical he took in Toronto. And his statistics in the EuroLeague lead one respected journalist to declare definitely that Batum was nowhere near ready.

His performance in the Las Vegas Summer League didn’t do anything to quiet those sentiments. He looked overwhelmed against NBA players; unable to do anything that would lead anyone to believe he belonged on the Trail Blazers’ roster.

So it came as a surprise to most people when the team announced Batum would make his way to Portland rather than spending another season with Le Mans. Once that little piece of conventional wisdom was debunked, the standard narrative changed. While Batum might now be under contract with the Trail Blazers, there was no way he could or would get minutes. A stint with the Idaho Stampede was surely in his future.

Maybe that was Portland’s plan, but it wasn’t Batum’s. He wasn’t going to leave behind his family, friends and teammates in France to pull a tour in Boise. His heart had been questioned, both literally and figuratively. It was then, after a tumultuous four months that saw him drop in the draft and flame out at summer league, that Batum decided he had had enough.

“People were walking over me,” said Batum. “When I think that people told me you maybe need to go to the D-League, in my head, I say ‘No. I am in the NBA; I don’t want to go to the D-League.’ If I come here, I come to play in the NBA. So I just try to keep confidence in myself, try to play hard every time, every practice, to play hard, to be the first in the gym. That’s what I did and that’s why I did a great season.”

Batum’s 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds averages in a little over 18 minutes per game might not scream “great season,” but his better-than-average three-point shooting and his status as the team’s best wing defender made his rookie season an unqualified success, especially given the surprise nature of his contributions. And the confidence and maturity Batum gained throughout the 2008-09 season and over the summer playing for the French national team would prove more important to the long-term success of the Trail Blazers than raw per game averages.

Head coach Nate McMillan has seen the difference in Batum through the first days of training camp. The quiet, tentative kid who was left on the doorstep of the Trail Blazers practice facility has been replaced with a self-assured man ready to contribute from the jump.

“Last year (Batum) came in as a rookie not really knowing what to expect,” said McMillan. “This year you see him not thinking, but more reacting. Very aggressive. He knows he can play at this level and play with this group of guys and play in this league. You’re seeing a guy who is very aggressive, attacking the glass. He’s looking to put the ball on the floor, looking more relaxed, more confident in his ability.”

You can see that confidence in the way Batum carries himself. The swagger he showed in fits and starts last season is now ever-present. He’s become more assertive, instinctual.

“I feel better than last year,” said Batum. “I am more comfortable, more confident in my game. I’ll keep playing defense like I did last year and be more aggressive on offense, to go to the rim, take my shots and don’t be shy.”

Shyness is no longer a problem for Batum, on or off the court. A year older and wiser, he’s set his sights on keeping his starting spot, being more than just a defensive specialist and proving to all of those who doubted him, those who passed him over, that they made a serious miscalculation.

“I’m more mature than last year,” said Batum. “Now I know the NBA life and the NBA game. I know this life. I’m different than last year. I grew up a lot.”

16 comments:

Bjorn Vilhjalmsson said...

Batum is great, I loved watching him playing in France and even more playing for my blazers.

Eric said...

Don't forget John Hollinger on ESPN calling Nic Batum a bust of last years draft, here is a quote from a Euro prospect article...

"One guy I can tell you about is Nicolas Batum. Teams are apparently worried about drafting Batum because of a possible heart ailment; I'd recommend avoiding him for other reasons -- like the fact that he can't play, for instance.

His numbers project to 9.6 points per 40 minutes, 39.8 percent shooting, and an 8.89 PER. It's not like this was an off-year either -- his 2007 numbers are nearly identical. I understand that he's only 19, so perhaps there's some value in using a late second-round pick on him and stashing him in Europe to see if he grows, but that's about as strong a recommendation as I can muster."

And a quote from someone else talking about it....

"Here's something interesting. John Hollinger, our resident stats guru, expects Nicolas Batum to be a draft bust, according to his Euroleague translations. The Rockets, led by GM Daryl Morey, are considered the most stats-savvy team in the league. Something doesn't add up. I wonder if there's a trade here. Batum has some physical talent and some skill, but he's yet to put it together in any meaningful way."

Sheed said...

Excellent piece, I love Batum's new attitude.

Ben said...

Let's go Nic! Love to hear those statements from him. He will prove to be a huge dratf-day steal like his fellow countryman Tony Parker. Can't wait to see some preseason results. GO BLAZERS!!

girdraconis001 said...

Batum is the man! That guy is out to kick some serious butt and I can't wait to watch him do it on national television. Keep up the good work man!

grumly said...

I thought the article would explain why Batum is wearing bras on the picture.

hg said...

Batman is a good dedicated worier.I as delighted last year just because he was a Blazer. This year I am exceited because He is going to be or already is a terrific player.

Keep up the good work.

hg

Paul said...

grum, thats funny! Go frenchman! good game...like the defence and would love to see um be more confident on offence..has the body and the athelticism..hope his head develops! Go Batman!

aneebaba said...

Great article. Can't wait to see what he does this year after a great job last year. Love his attitude and determination. May his sucess continue for many years to come - for our Blazers of course!

Jeff said...

Batum will dominate this year !! He has really worked hard to improve his offensive game and he is top-notch on defense. I predict he can be an all-star within maybe 2 years. Go Blazers !!!!

DowntownVinnie said...

Ever since I read that he wanted to be like Tay shawn Prince,I knew he was serious.I don't expect Martell to take his spot.

tbrownolive said...

I think both you and I know that I was way out in front of this. He was sick at LMS, and I knew he would be sick in the L. Congrats, Nico. Continue avec ton taf, gars!

chris said...

Batum is finally getting his mind set in the place it needs to be take shots we arent gonna get mad at you... we will get more mad if you don't take the shot. get to the rim and dominate like we know you can. and block everyone that trys to get a fast break. Batum will keep his starting roll and I think that Martell will take backup SG where as travis will continue backup SF

starter prediction
Andre Miller PG
Brandon Roy SG
Nicolas Batum SF
Lamarcus Aldridge PF
Joel Pryzbilla C

Brian said...

I don't know what to say, but everything sounds very promising for my Blazers. Nic, keep up the good work and show us some more! Greg, you're surely growing into your dominance, let's see your stuff. Brandon, L.A., and all you other guys, let's just squash the opposition this year! Go Blazers!!!

BRoyFTW said...

Casey could you please find out whether any of the pre season games are going to be on comcast. I went to the fan fest not knowing I could have stayed at home and watched it. I would have prefered that.

Do you know if the Kings pre season game will be on Comcast aswell? I would like to know, because if not then I know I'll have to get tickets asap. I don't know why they would broadcast the fan fest but not pre season game. Thanks.

REAListic optimIST said...

Following Fan Fest, I give my prediction for first and second unit:

1st unit
C: Pryzbilla
PF: Aldridge
SF: Batum
SG: Roy
PG: Blake

2nd unit
C: Oden
PF: Howard / Outlaw
SF: Webster
SG: Fernandez
PG: Miller

I put Howard / Outlaw because howard will be in there when they need smart plays from a post up guy who can pass, and Outlaw will be in there when they need points.

Bayless will get some minutes, but mostly, he will be learning from Miller how to distribute the basketbal, have court vision, and make good decisions.

Cunningham looked good last night, and he will get some garbage time. I predict that he will soon become a fan favorite and that his minutes will increase throughout the season, and Outlaw's will decrease.