caseyholdahl

Nov 10

Batum Makes His Demand

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, NicolasBatum, Spurs

With three minutes to play in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's 112-109 loss to the Spurs, Nicolas Batum did something that Trail Blazers fans have been begging for since he got to Portland.

With Manu Ginobili at the line preparing to shoot free throws with the Spurs up 101-94, Batum walked with purpose toward Terry Stotts, who was surveying the situation from half court as NBA coaches often do. What was different though was Batum. Rather than slumping over at midcourt with his hands on his knees, using a few spare seconds to catch his breath after having already played 35 minutes, Batum approached Stotts and, in no uncertain terms, demanded to have the ball put in his hands with the game on the line. For years, coaches, fans and the media have noted that, while Batum shows flashes of brilliance, he is too passive and willing to defer to his teammates. It seemed to some that Batum was waiting for something to be given rather than going out on to the court and taking it.

That was not the case Saturday night. Whether Stotts actually called for Batum to have the ball in his hands late in the fourth or if Batum simply took it upon himself is hard to tell, nor is it all that important. What matters is that he took control, arguably for the first time in his NBA career.

On the ensuing possession after Ginobili's free throws, Batum drove from the top of the three-point line, drew two defenders, and subsequently found Wesley Matthews open under the hoop. Matthews was fouled on the play and received free throws thanks to Batum's aggressiveness.

A few plays later, Batum blocked a shot by Tim Duncan, corralled the rebound, and ended up taking and making a three-pointer after trailing the play. On the next offensive possession, Batum drove the lane again, only this time found Matthews open on the perimeter for a three to bring the Trail Blazers to within one. Twenty-two seconds later, LaMarcus Aldridge would find Batum for yet another three, which brought Batum's point total to 33, tying a career-high.

Those would be Batum's last points of the night. Coming off a pindown out of a timeout, Batum would miss what might have been a game-winning three-pointer with seven seconds to play. Stotts noted after the game that he would have preferred Batum drive and attempt to tie the game rather than take a three, a point Batum did not argue.

"What we talk about is when I come off of pindowns, not to shoot every time," said Batum sheepishly. "And he's right. I should drive this. I will next time, take my time. I learn from it."

While it would have been nice for the Trail Blazers to grind out a victory, especially in a game in which they led at one time by 14, the long-term impact of Batum demanding the ball might prove more important than any one victory this season. The Trail Blazers matched Minnesota's offer to Batum this summer with the expectation that the lanky Frenchman would be a cornerstone of the franchise for the foreseeable future. If that is to be the case, Batum has to demand his place at the table, rather than waiting for someone to pull out a chair for him.

"I have to change a lot of things this year, to show more leadership maybe," said Batum. "That's what I try to do, on offense and defense."

It's still a work in progress. Batum is mistaking taking difficult shots for being aggressive too often and still has a tendency from time to time to float, especially on defense. But by insisting on being a more important cog in the current system, Batum is already further along after six games under Terry Stotts than he was in his first four seasons in Portland.

4 Comments

  1. Casey: I surely agree with you on Batum; he is not quite there yet, but he is surely better then he was.
    Being aggressive doesn't necessarily make you make less mistakes, just makes your presents felt and makes the opponents pay more attention to Batum and less on Lillard and LaMarcus.
    I have been saying all summer that with this new team and new coaches, that all I was hoping for was being competitive; we have surely been that except for two times in three qters in three separate games we got out played tremendously. I susspect that has to do with our bench being too new.
    Although it was a lost, we are learning and we are getting better.
    We have been harping on the lack of D, but team D takes time and the players are starting to know each other better. Plus, think of our opponents the first six games; they all have the ability to spread the floor with great outside shooters. So that is not only the Blazers concern but everybody else's also. On the reverse side we are getting pretty good at spreading the floor also. So maybe with all the new fire power of all the teams 50+% isn't all that bad, as long as we can do the same.

    by Hg on 11/11/2012 6:05 AM
  2. Quite some time ago, I'll never 4get Roy's reply to being asked (I'm paraphrasing of course ;), what goes through his mind when the game is down to 1 shot for the W or the L & Por. has the ball, he replied: he's not afraid, he WANTS the ball in his hands & he sees it as an OPPORTUNITY. I've played ball for many years now & admit that until I heard Roy say that, I can only recall making ONE game winning shot (all of this stuff isn't NBA level intensity ;) & that wasn't bc I demanded the ball even; AFTER I heard him say that, I REALLY took that to heart & have hit countless game winners (this is REAL stuff ppl!)! IDK if Nico is remembering/taking those very same words to heart now or if he's gotten his inspiration elsewhere but I want to make Nico aware of what Roy said if he's not heard it already & if he has... just a friendly little reminder ;) If Roy's words can change a scrub like me... these words can make Nico UNSTOPPABLE! We believe in you Nico! :)

    by Simpson on 11/11/2012 8:32 AM
  3. Nic played an amazing game last night. I was thoroughly impressed with his energy on both sides of the court and without his efforts we wouldn't have been in that game at all. 105 pts out of 109 from our starters. We really couldn't ask for much more. Just as the players are learning Stotts systems, Stotts is learning about the players skills. Like everyone else I tend to want instant gratification from this team but we're not a seasoned team of vets that have worked with the same coach and teammates for years. Nic is showing a basketball IQ beyond his years and I love seeing him take a leadership role. After thought. JJ Hickson is really doing all the dirty work in the paint and is to be commended! We're a few pieces away from being a very, very dangerous team in the west.

    by riverman on 11/11/2012 9:55 AM
  4. The coaching change did wonders for Batum. I feel like for the first time in his career, Batum feels "free" in an offensive system and we are seeing the results. He's more active off the dribble, unafraid to pull the trigger on a jump shot, and his whole on-court demeanor has changed and for the better. He now looks like he's playing out there with a newly found confidence. I've seen the tip-in against the Spurs, the 9 3's against the Nuggets and the 20+ pt 3rd quarter against the Wolves, but this was, by far, the most impressive performance of his career. Big time players want to take the big time shots. And that's just what he did.

    by DHawes22 on 11/11/2012 11:43 AM
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