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Batum's big summer

  1. Written by: KevinHudson

    The talk amongst Trail Blazers fans these past few months has centered largely around the impending restricted free agency of Nicolas Batum: how much he'll command on the free agent market this summer and how much the team should be willing to match to retain his talents being chief among the discussions.

    As soon as the buzzer sounded on Portland's final contest of the season, Thursday, fans' anxiety about the future of the young French forward became almost palpable.

    Batum isn't anxious, though. In fact, he's not even thinking about it.

    "I don’t really think about it yet. I’ll think about that in July," he said. "Of course I want to come back here. It’s the team that drafted me and put me on the court at 19 and gave me a chance in the NBA but I’m going to look at my options and see what happens."

    Part of the reason Batum is putting contract thoughts out of his head is the impending Olympic Games in London, where Batum will join Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Boris Diaw and others on the French national team.

    "I don’t think about it right now," he said. "I won’t think about NBA basketball at all, it’s time to refocus on the Olympics now. I’m just very excited."

    The other thing that helps ease his mind is what he called a "99 percent" chance that the Trail Blazers will match the offers that are sure to be made for his services this summer. While he hasn't been told so explicitly by coaches or front office personnel for the team, he said he can feel it.

    "They haven’t told me that but they make me understand that. They tell me that they love me a lot and they want me long term with the franchise so we’ll see what happens," he said. "(It's) great, when a franchise loves you like that."

    The confluence of his anticipated new contract and the chance to compete in the Olympics have Batum almost bubbling with the possibilities.

    "This is the most exciting summer for me in my basketball career. I’m going to be a free agent for the first time, going to be a big contract maybe for me and then going to play in the Olympics for the first time," he said. "Two big dreams in my life were playing in the NBA and the Olympics so it will be exciting for me."

    And while France might be a long shot to beat powerhouse United States or Spanish squads, he believes they have a chance to medal and could even catch lightning in a bottle and snatch gold from the hands of the favorites.

    "You never know what can happen," he said. "It’s one game. It’s not a seven-game series, it’s one 40-minute game."

    Batum said the knee that has been bothering him should be healed after a two or three weeks of rest, and practice for the French team doesn't begin until mid-June. In the interim he plans to travel, noting Dubai, Africa, Spain and Greece among his intended destinations.

    "I can’t stay in same spot more than five days in a row," Batum said. "I move a lot. I can’t stay in the same spot. I want to travel and discover different things."

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