STAT LINE OF THE SEASON
11 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 blocks versus New Orleans Hornets on Dec. 16
You almost have to break Nicolas Batum's 2012-13 season into two categories: pre-wrist injury and post-wrist injury.
Pre-wrist injury Nicolas Batum was the player the Trail Blazers hoped they'd get when they matched the four-year, $42 million contract
the Timberwolves reportedly offered the 6-9 swingman last summer. The player who was knocked for being too tentative and inconsistent returned to Portland a changed player, or at least it seemed that way at times. Most of his averages per 36 minutes in scoring and rebounding stayed relatively flat
with his averages from the season before
, though his assist numbers skyrocketed from 1.7 per 36 minutes to 5.4 in the first three months of the season, giving the impression that maybe his goal of being his generation's Scottie Pippen was within reach. Some very smart people even contended
that he was outperforming his new contract.
Then there was post-wrist injury Nicolas Batum. This is the Batum whose shot attempts per game fell from 12.4 to 9.1 after a hard fall during practice resulted in a sore right wrist which would hamper him for the rest of the season.
"I think (the season) was pretty good until I got this wrist injury," said Batum. "It stopped me scoring-wise. The other stats, I could to better. I could do way better than that."
And with fewer attempts came fewer points -- he averaged 16.4 points per 36 minutes before the injury, 10.8 after -- a crisis on a team already short on scoring options. While his field goal percentage after the injury dipped slightly, his 3-point percentage actually improved almost four points. That would be a good thing if it had been a byproduct of better shot selection, but in actuality, it was more a function of Batum being hesitant to shoot due to pain in his wrist. Your classic catch-22.
Despite 2012-13 being a season Batum described as "frustrating," he did accomplish a few milestones. He's the only player in NBA history
to log at least 360 assists and 80 blocks while making at least 165 3-pointers in a season and he joined Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Scottie Pippen as the only players in NBA history to finish with at least 350 assists, 100 3-pointers and 80 blocks
. He became just the third player in NBA history to record at least 11 points, ten assists, five rebounds, five blocks and five steals in a game during the Dec. 16 game against the Hornets at the Rose Garden. And he also completed the first triple-double of his career, a feat he then repeated two games later.
There were great moments for Batum the individual this season, but for the consummate team player, the season goes down as a disappointment and as a valuable learning experience going into what will hopefully be a more successful 2013-14 season.
"Very excited because last year, the end of the season was … special," said Batum, using "special" as a pejorative. "We knew nobody from this roster was going to be there except for two or three guys. Now, we can have some of the same group here next year. We'll have young guys. Those games we lost this year, the games we should have won or the games that slipped away, we're going to get those next year. We're going to learn from our mistakes. This year was a good year for everybody because you've got a guy like Damian who learned a lot. We all know what he's done this year, scoring-wise, but he learned a lot about the game, how to lead a team … I'm excited for next year."