Everyone has been waiting anxiously for Nicolas Batum to make his 2009-10 season debut. Nate McMillan has pined for his young defensive stopper. The fans have craved seeing their favorite baby-faced Frenchman out on the fastbreak. And the folks back in his homeland have followed his rehabilitation closely, hoping to gauge how ready he’ll be if he chooses to play for Les Bleus this summer in the World Championships in Turkey.
But no one has had a longer wait that Nico himself. After never having been away from the game for more than two weeks, his three-month shoulder-surgery induced hiatus has felt like l'éternité
“Very excited for tonight,” said Batum. “I think I’m more excited for this game more than my first NBA game. I’m real excited.”
So if and when he takes to the court tonight against the Hornets at the Rose Garden, expect to see a smile as wide as the Seine from Nico, at least until he gets into his defensive stance.
You might have to look quickly though. The plan is to play Batum no more than five to seven minutes a half, no more than 15 minutes overall. Taking contact to a surgically-repaired body part after a period of inactivity is like getting into a hot tub: you’ve got to ease your way into it.
But after a few practices in which contact with the shoulder was purposefully induced, Batum is confident that not only is he ready to play, sans provisos.
“I’m doing everything right now,” said a self-assured Batum. “I’m in good shape. Everything is good. I’m ready to be playing.”
At times it almost seemed as though Batum was trying to calm the fears of the media that had gathered to ask questions after shootaround. After a season of reporting on injury after injury and aggravation of past injuries, the Portland media has experienced a touch of the same shellshock the team has endured, so everyone seemed to have a slightly heightened sense of concern and skepticism when Batum declared all was, in fact, well.
“No, I don’t care,” said Batum when asked if he was concerned about taking a hit to the shoulder. “I feel very comfortable. My shoulder, she is very good. I’m going to be fine. It’s going to be OK.”
Aside from some lingering concerns about being in “game shape,” Nico is jacked and ready to play. And as for his declaration that he’s going to get a fastbreak block on Chris Paul in his first game back …
“He go fastbreak, maybe I go block him,” said Batum. “I miss a lot this game, so, no playing during the last 45 games. I’m just ready to play. If I’ve got Chris Paul, I’m going to guard Chris Paul.”