caseyholdahl

Oct 31

Nicolas Batum: 'I'm Not Scared'

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Clippers, Knicks, Suns, Blazers, NicolasBatum
Nicolas Batum started 76 games his rookie season, which gave the first year Frenchman a semblance of NBA credibility, especially after a lackluster summer league performance that had many assuming he'd stay in Europe or pull extended duty in the D-League. But though he played, Batum was rarely on the floor when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, and that probably hurt him in the playoff series against Houston, when every quarter was like the fourth.

Things have changed for Batum. He's spent the past two summers playing in top-level international competition while assuming a leadership role with the French national team. He's got another playoff series under his belt. He's matured both mentally and physically and the results have been impressive.

In the first three games this season, Batum has become a mainstay of Nate McMillan's fourth quarter lineup, the results of which we saw Saturday night against the Knicks, as he blocked Raymond Felton's shot (though the scorers incorrectly attributed the block to Marcus Camby) with 20 seconds to play, denying New York what would have been a one-point lead and late-game momentum.

But it's not just about defense anymore for Nic. Along with late-game minutes, Batum is also getting touches on the offensive end, something that, in the past two seasons, has been more of a rarity than fourth quarter playing time.

"I just tried to be more aggressive and people look at me much more than last year," said Batum, who is averaging 14.7 points on 60 percent shooting from the field. "BRoy try to look at me. Dre told me when you're wide open, ask me for the ball every time. Camby watched me. They trust me much more than the last two years.

"I shot 17 times in 27 minutes (in the opener against the Suns). I've never done that. I know I'm going to get wide open shots because teams double team Dre, LA, BRoy, those guys. So I have to be ready, don't be relaxed."

We saw a taste of Batum's budding offensive game last seasons, specifically in a two game stretch in which he scored 31 and 21 against Minnesota and Memphis, respectively. But back then, an increase in Batum's scoring would result in a decline in his primary role as the team's best defender. Being able to do both is still a work in progress, but the early returns have been promising.

"When you're out on the floor you've got to play both ends of the floor," said Nate McMillan. "(Batum) can do some good things on both ends of the floor so that's part of consistency and learning to do that and not allowing one end to affect the other. If you're out there defending, you've still got to try to give something on the offensive end. And if your shots are falling you've still got to defend. You've got to play both ends of the floor."

Even through Batum's ability to put the ball in the hole has improved, he's still unlikely to have his number called out of the huddle by Coach McMillan. He is still the fourth offensive option, at best, in Portland's starting lineup, and that's unlikely to change, at least this season. But Batum is finding that there's plenty of opportunities to be had even if he's still on page 2 of opposing teams' scouting report.

"He's just playing basketball," said McMillan. "He's getting to the open spot and he's knocking down shots. We've been moving the ball. He's doing a good job of moving and playing off of the ball. One of the biggest things guys need to learn to do in this league is playing off the ball. A lot of things can happen if you know how to play off the ball. He's done a good job of moving, going to the offensive glass, getting out in transition, coming off screens."

By doing those things, Batum has earned a prized spot in the Portland rotation as a starter, a finisher and a scorer. Two years ago, only one of those labels would have been applicable.

"(McMillan) trust me," said Batum. "It's my third year. I know the game, I know I'll play in the last quarter. I know pressure, I know the game, I know the plays, I know what I have to do in defense and offense. I've got no pressure. I'm not scared."

18 Comments

  1. Excellent blog post Casey. I think each passing season and maybe even each game, all of us are just loving Batum's game and the French-ness! It's been great to see his growth and improvement each year. He has the international competition experience and hopefully through this and following seasons, he will get more experience with big-game pressure/atmosphere, which will be invaluable come playoff time.

    Indeed, when seeing him at his intro press conference, he seemed as if he would be just a small part to our team's rise as a rookie and maybe the fact that we was an international player, it would take him time, but I think in this short time, he has really made giant leaps with his game and his mentality. After reading this and knowing that Coach Nate and his teammates are showing confidence in him, I know we are going to see so much more out of him as he continues to add to his game - and thus, to the team's on-court goals.

    -Anees, from Prague :-)

    by Anees on 10/31/2010 1:31 PM
  2. I really see Nicolas Batum coming into his own and I love watching his confidence and playing ability grow. And those arms! Long and talented. I hope he stays with the Blazers for a very long time. He's a total joy to watch.

    by kaemicha on 10/31/2010 1:48 PM
  3. You might want to do a quick proof read of this post, or at least spell check. The first paragraphs have a few of the wrong words, and you didn't close the parentheses at one point. Just saying.

    Other than that I liked the post. I'm excited to watch Batum this year.

    by gypsyblazer on 10/31/2010 2:00 PM
  4. Do we really care if he can spell and punctuate, what are you an English teacher

    by biged1230 on 10/31/2010 2:24 PM
  5. I'm really glad Nate is giving him the minutes in the 4th finally!!

    by I''m OUT! on 10/31/2010 2:25 PM
  6. Hey biged1230, you forgot to put a question mark at the end of your sentence.

    Gypsy if he doesn't proof read his own writing, why would he even read your post?

    by I''m OUT! on 10/31/2010 2:27 PM
  7. Good article, Casey. I love Batum - he is our rising star!

    by suzz on 10/31/2010 2:29 PM
  8. Don't like the fact that Nic is considered our "4th option." With how good he's been (the kid is shooting 60% from the floor), and with how inconsistent LaMarcus has been, I would like to see Nic get more touches.

    by Ricky Ackerman on 10/31/2010 2:39 PM
  9. Thanks for the heads up Gypsy. I was running on empty when I posted that. I'd always rather get it right than be right.

    by caseyholdahl on 10/31/2010 3:01 PM
  10. Doh!

    by I''m OUT! on 10/31/2010 3:07 PM
  11. Just got back to the hotel and re-read the first paragraph. Boy howdy was it bad. Should be fixed now. Sorry about that.

    by caseyholdahl on 10/31/2010 3:38 PM
  12. hey casey! great stuff - i love this new confidence thing cuz we knew batum cud shoot, the q is wud he look for his own shots, but he def is recently

    maybe it was the first play of the knicks game or first play of some quarter, but Nic actually had a play called for him - first time id seen that, but typical nic fashion, he scored, and just kept doing what he's supposed to do

    - on a sour note, there were a few times in the knick game that he seemed to have lost his man and reacted too slowly (mainly the first half) did u see that?/what was up with that?

    by joe.k on 10/31/2010 4:48 PM
  13. Batum could even be better then he is, He never forces the issue, I love his game

    by Hg on 10/31/2010 7:46 PM
  14. nice piece, Casey. Nicolas shouldn't be scared of anyone. he's come a long way, and i think he emerge as a higher option on offense.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 10/31/2010 8:09 PM
  15. Nice blog- I am loving Nic and how his game is progressing!

    by RedRudy5 on 11/1/2010 12:29 AM
  16. we have our kd..he would put 25 ppg if he shot the ball 20 times a game. but his game is in process and his defense makes him even better. he's very young too but it would be nice to have him as option 3.

    by uri on 11/1/2010 1:13 AM
  17. he ıs a good player and shıfty but ı thınk problem ıs concentrate and also ofcourse he passed so many ınjurıes ...ı hope he ıs gonna be better ın tıme ...
    excutaly everythıng ıs about roy when roy %100 come back to team every player ıs gonna be much much better ..fınaly ı am gonna say ı am from turkey and ı am a bıg fan of blazers for nba and ı wanna see them ın play-off maybe conferans fınals !!!why not we belıve ın blazers .. ...see ya fellas :)

    by sunny on 1/31/2011 8:54 PM
  18. Man if only Batum had a killer instinct he could become not just a good but a great player. It's cool that he's so unselfish but the guy can ball and he could help take a lot of the pressure off L.A. if he put up some more shots.

    by mattnificent85 on 2/4/2011 12:55 PM
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