First things first: Nicolas Batum is a nice guy. After his last summer league game on Sunday night, he sported a huge smile -- ear to ear -- and the youthful wide eyes that we saw all weekend. For such a young man, he is well-travelled and his English, although thick with a French accent (he even says "ze" instead of "the"), is great.
While on-court he might be best described as "tentative," off the court the word was "courteous." Indeed he was not only excited to answer a few questions after the game but he quite merrily signed his shoes and jersey for Blazers fans. I got the impression that Nicolas would gladly have signed his arm and handed it out if he had an extra one to spare.
My brief post-game conversation with Mr. Batum is transcribed below. Please do not chalk up his short replies as those of the typical NBA player (over-caution, over-calculation, over-boredom). On the contrary. In some cases, he appeared to be struggling or grasping for the right word(s), but his spirit, which came across in this case as pleasant patience, spoke loudly for him.
Lady in Red: "OMG U R SO HOT!!!1111111"
Blazersedge: Summer league is over. How does it feel?
It was a great experience for me. The first few games for me were very difficult but I learned from it. In the last few games, this game, I had a great game.
Blazersedge: As you walked off the court at halftime, I saw Monty giving you some personal instructions. What was he saying?
Nothing special, just to keep playing my game.
Blazersedge: Who was the most difficult person to guard during this tournament?
To guard... I think the best player was.... maybe... I don't know... (apologetic grin)
Blazersedge: What was it like playing with Jerryd Bayless this week?
He's a very good player, very aggressive, very athletic. He has a great career in front of him.
Blazersedge: What was your role in relation to Jerryd? How did you fit in?
To help him when he drives. To try to give him the ball. To do everything to make him better.
What has Kevin Pritchard told you about what he saw from your performance this week?
Nothing yet. Because I haven't had a chance to talk with him yet. Coach McMillan wants to work with me all year and they want me on the team next year.
Blazersedge: What's next?
Now I go to France, I go back to France tomorrow morning... take some rest, relax, in 3 weeks I go back to Portland on August 15th.
Are you a little excited to be headed home?
For me it's very exciting. Because I go back to France as an NBA player! (Laughing)
Blazersedge: (Laughing) Ohhh. So you're a superhero back home?
No... I'm not Tony Parker.
But I think it changes everything in France.
Blazersedge: Have you talked to Tony Parker recently?
Yeah, yeah, yeah just after the draft. After the draft he said "welcome" and "go to work" and "good luck."
Blazersedge: The Portland fans wish you luck too. You know you already have a number of admirers in Portland.
I'm very excited because they like me. (sheepish grin)
Blazersedge: Have you been to Portland before travelling there earlier this month?
Just last week was my first time.
Blazersedge: Did you have a chance to look around? To do any sightseeing?
Oh no. Just practice and business.
If you'd like the full scoop on Nicolas, be sure to check out Joe Freeman over at the O, who really brought the heat in his Batum profile.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)