NBA - Nicolas Batum: "Un début de saison au-delà de mes attentes"
The young Frenchmen Nicolas Batum, 20 years old, who fought his way into the Blazers' starting 5 in his first NBA season, assured to AFP that his start to the season has been above his expectations and he declared himself "very satisfied."
Q : Has your start to the season reached your expectations?
A : It's even been beyond my expectations because I didn't think I'd be starting every game. I'm very satisfied. I didn't see it like that: I just thought about playing three or four minutes a game, not being a starter and playing between 15 and 20 minutes.
Q : What does Portland coach Nate McMillan ask of you ?
A : He already asks me to defend the opponents best player. Sunday in Los Angeles, I got stuck with Kobe... I have to play my game, box out for rebounds, take open shots when they're there. He (McMillan) wants me to rebound, get a couple steals and especially that I maintain a good shooting percentage, that I take good shots, that I don't force them.
Q : Does your status as a starter put you under more pressure on top of being a rookie ?
A: Contrary to the start of the year, I know now that I have something to bring each night, I have to be consistent. There's a bit of pressure in that regard, which I didn't have in the beginning. And with the fatigue which comes, after already 30 games played, I'll have to manage. But you're in the NBA for that. It's another world, another universe but it's magnificent.
Q: What exactly are the differences that you are experiencing?
A: It's more physical, faster, more brutal, bigger, stronger, it's more everything. The NBA in general, it's a real circus, it's always moving, it's business everywhere, it's money everywhere... It really is unbelievable. You can easily lose your head in here. I'm only 20, I'm at the beginning of my career, the financial aspect, that will be for later.
Q: Have you spoken with the other French players in the NBA?
A: I've seen them all, they're cool with me and give me a lot of advice.
Q: And your teammates in Portland, how are they with the "Frenchie" ?
A: They're really nice, they tease me a bit because for them, basketball doesn't exist outside of the United States. We tease each other, nothing really mean, I manage to respond to them. They're curious, asking me lots of questions about France, they say two or three words in french to me.
Q: Do you think that you have succeeded in winning their respect?
A: I think so, I think that it's apparent in their behavior.
Q: Are you apprehensive about Martell Webster's next comeback?
A: At the start, I wasn't supposed to play and I'm playing now in part because he's injured. If he comes back, he will maybe take his place back because he's normally the starter. But I'll do everything I can to keep my playing time.