I know the talk here is mostly about free angency and the Hedo stuff, but maybe some of you will be interested in this Nic long interview.
Please forgive me for the syntaxic mistakes in the translation, i did my best.
Despite everything he went through during the last year, Nicolas Batum has remained as humble and thoughtful than during our first interview just two years ago. This is probably why he managed to find a place in one of the most promising teams in the NBA, and why he should soon have a major role with the french national team.
Reverse: Everyone say that there is a big difference between the regular season and the plyoffs. Do you have felt it?
Nicolas Batum: Yes! Especially as we had little experience, it was visible in the first match where we were behind by 30 immediately. The difference of intensity is huge, especially with the reffering changes. There are plenty of fouls they were calling in the regular season and not here. We had never been in the playoffs, so we have been complaining a lot.(he smiles). Especially at the first game. We could have beat them anyway, but the Game1 really killed us.
Reverse: What do you memorize of your first playoff experience?
N.B: Individually, i know i screwed up. We had the home-field advantage and we were playing at home where we blew up everyone by 25 points during the whole year, so individually i played it like a regular season game. Mentally, i missed it. So, after that, i haven't approached the other games the same way, i was even more under pressure. I screwed up but that's what McMillan told me in the end :"That's good, that's how you learn".
Reverse: We imagine that you were very dissapointed...
N.B: Yeah, but i wasn't very upset: we made a big season, and even if we lost 4-2, we were not that far. Next year we'll have the same team with one more year of experience... But it has pissed me off because i was hoping going further. We've been fighting all year long for the home field avantage and we get out in the first round. I'm hopping mad because we had our chance. In second round we would have played the Lakers. They were scared of us, it could have been winnable. Even Kobe said so:"I don't wanna play Portland". It was possible against them but...
Reverse: You defended Artest. Was it hard?
N.B: The dude weighs more than 110kg, he's very tough, strong, tonic, he's everywhere. And he's a real player. Maybe not elegant but he scores. He's very hard to stop. He always drive left but he's so strong... And he's a real defensive player. Nevertheless he had difficulty. He said so:"Roy is the best player i played against". It was fun. Craig Sager told him "And LeBron? And Kobe?" "No I didn't say LeBron and Kobe, i said Brandon Roy!" (laughs).
Reverse: Others players have impressed you this season?
N.B: The two crazy, LeBron and Kobe. What's annoying with Kobe is that he can shoot from everywhere. Lebron less,with him it's physical, he's gonna drive, he's gonna shove you, but Kobe, he's shoot from everywhere.
Reverse: What are the staff instructions when you defend on Kobe?
N.B: First, don't let him warm up. Early you need to break his rythm. He will score 25 anyway but he can't have 50. LeBron, you need to bring him to the baseline on the left and let him shoot. On the right side you're dead. But Kobe, I've been told not to orientate him,, stay in front on him, you can't do anything else. If you give him space he's gone. Same for Wade, he's to fast, with the best first step i've ever seen.
Reverse: He elbowed you in your first meeting.
N.B: Yeah. But i was happy. Channing Frye told me "He respects you. If a star hits you, that's a sign that you've donne a good job."
Reverse: Are there others players, you can tell you were bothering them?
N.B: I know that on time LeBron was glad that i went on the bench. He told it to Roy, who told me after the game. He scored 34 points, but i did pretty well. The player i was happy to defend is Kevin Durant. I don't like when guys my age or younger have success against me(laughs). The first game against him, he was in his serie of 10 games with 30 points or more. With Travis, we swore that he would not score more than 20. At halftime he had 3.
Reverse: Is there a moment in the season when you told to yourself "Good, i've got the game to belong here"?
N.B: Yeah, after the first rookie wall. I begin 2009 with my personal best, 17 points in the Staples Center. And after the All-Star break, i have good games after good games and i think "I begin to be good". Everyone was telling me so, the coach, Tony (Parker), Bois (Diaw). Even Tayshaun Prince told me after a game "Keep it like this, you've got a future, don't give up and you'll be great". I was happy: he's one of my model. He's not very strong, like me, but he works a lot.
Reverse: And McMillan, he speaked to you? Did he give you some goals?
N.B: He speaked to me a lot before the games. At the start of the season he told me "This year it's defense and taking open shots". At the end of the year, he asked me to work on my shot. But not just to take corner shot like Bruce Bowen. With dribble, whitout dribble, after a pick... Next year he wants to involve me more and more in the offensive game. I've got to be more like Tayshaun Prince than Bruce Bowen.
Reverse: Webster injury benefited you, how did you live it?
N.B: After a training game, the coaches tell us "Martell has surgery tommorrow morning, he's out for 3 months". In my head, there was a click. At the moment Luke Jackson is still there. I told to myself "You, don't even think about it". I was at 100%, i knew that i had something to do. Because at the beginning it was hard. I just came in, and during the training camp, after the training, i wasn't playing, i was on the side. The hierarchy was locked. Except this third forward spot between me and Jackson. My first objective was to kick him out, because if he stays, i'm out.
Reverse: It's funny because the Nicolas of Le Mans, we didn't see him in this kind of atmosphere.
N.B: Totally. I evolved a lot mentally. When i came in Le Mans, as a young player, i was walked all over. But it grew me up, i can handle these situations now.
Reverse:Did other things help you to mature?
N.B:All the stuff before the draft (note by me: mainly the story of the heart disease). I grew up a lot. I had to confront things that i never confronted before. If i hadn't done that, i would never be here today. It was hard, but i now think it's a good thing. Even if for the franchises, my status had changed. Before, i was seen like a talented,offensive player, after i was a defensive player.
Reverse: McMillan decided to put you in the starting five but changed his mind just before the first game. Did it give you more motivation?
N.B: Oh yes. The training after that, i was whole-heartedly. I discovered myself. Before in Le Mans i would have sulk. Here i got upset, instead of give up.
Reverse: You're the youngest team in the league. How is the ambiance?
N.B: It's cool, very like university, we have a lot of fun. For example, unlike the other team we all eat together during a road trip.
Reverse: Tell us about your partners? Who are the craziest, with who are you more friend?
N.B: The craziest is Travis, you hear him everywhere. Frye is interesting, he speaks all the time. The funniest is Sergio. Oden is... the dumbest (he laughs). He's the one i'm closer with, we're both discrete guys. Bayless is the trashtalker. He wants to challenge everybody in ping-pong. He's very good, he used to participate State championship. He doesn't look like, but i swear it's true. If there is a table, he wants to take everybody, he wants to play money (laughs).
Reverse: Roy is the leader?
N.B: Yeah, he speaks a lot. Him and Aldridge are the two who speak the most, with Blake. But Royis super good. No, "super good" is not enough. The guy, he's to... he's to all (he laughs). Since the beginning he impresses me. He's very easy. left hand, right hand, all in control. Im-pres-sive.
And in the team he speaks a lot, in half-time or time-outs before the coach.
Reverse:You quicly got in the starting 5. Have you still had trouble to adapt to some things?
N.B: The refs. There are so many different rules. The defensive three seconds, hand-checking not allowed. Now i have a defensive player status, the refs don't tell me "Hey rookie" anymore, they tell me Nic, and they warn me two or three times before the whistle:"Nic your hands, that's twice. I say nothing but i gonna whistle the third". While at the beginning i've mad some games with 5 fouls in 12 minutes (he laughs).
Reverse: If the is less contacts, is the game tougher in the NBA or in the Euroleague.
N.B: The NBA is harder because they're stronger. You feel the contacts hard. When you play LeBron, the bump is not the same than Papaloukas. If you get bumped inside, it's not Alain Koffi, it's Shaq (he laughs).
Reverse: And with the training rythm, what's the difference?
N.B: As the time goes by, you have less trainings. You've got morning trainings but it's light. At first, i was doing other training alone before and after, shot and weight-lifting. Since February there's no training games. It's normal, we've played so much games, and there are a lot left. More would cause injuries and unnecessary tiredness.
Reverse: So you have done a lot of musculation. Last year you were...
N.B: (he laughs) I was scary last year, no? When i look the REVERSE cover i tell to my self "oh fudge". I was at 92kg, and i'm now at 100.
Reverse: Do you feel an impact in the game?
N.B: Yes, especially in defense, i switch a lot with Aldridge, and i guard 4. I resist pretty well. I realised that when i resisted against David West. He pushes, pushes, yells at the ref, fades away and complain (smile).
Reverse: You had to change your alimentation? Did they do to you the Toni Kukoc thing?
N.B: No it has not changed. Always my cereal bowl before the game? There is no Chocapic here, but i found the alias.They don't want me to enlarger anyway. McMillan told me "i've been a defensive player too, ans belive me, you don't need to enlarge".
The rest of the interview is about the national team so i don't translate it cause you probably won't be interested (and because i'm tired). The only part about the Blazers is that they agree with Nic that play with France will benefit him more than the summer League.