of BasketSession.com reports
that Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum has agreed to play for French club Nancy during the lockout.
Here's a google translated version of the report...
According to a source familiar with the matter, Nicolas Batum signed with SLUC Nancy. The winger Portland Trail Blazers and the team will begin the season in France Pro A and the Euroleague with Nancy in the case quite likely that the lockout blocks the start of the NBA season.
We knew very advanced contacts between the two parties, but nothing was sure yet.
FIBA ruled this week
that any such deal involving an NBA player with an existing contract is valid only if the player returns to the NBA once the league's work stoppage is over.
Batum has been linked with the club, which will also compete in Euroleague play, for weeks
after repeatedly expressing interest in playing in his home country if the ongoing NBA lockout results in a work stoppage.
Along with guard Patty Mills, Batum has been the most likely member of the Blazers rotation to opt to play overseas for geographic, financial and personal reasons.
A native of France, Batum plays for the French national team -- he's competing in this summer's EuroBasket tournament -- and played in the French league prior to being selected by the Blazers during the 2008 NBA Draft.
He is still on his rookie deal, set to make $2.16 million next season, so the risk associated with an injury jeopardizing future salary by playing overseas isn't as severe as it would be for his older teammates or players with more guaranteed money remaining on their contracts.
Finally, Batum is just 22 years old with plenty of room for development and an "always eager" personality. He made it clear that he wasn't going to sit around for a year, regardless, and he seems to realize there is plenty of room for improvement in his game.
From Portland's perspective -- should this report prove to be accurate -- this isn't a major win or a major loss. There's certainly the risk of injury to be weighed, as Batum did miss a significant portion of the 2009-2010 season following shoulder surgery before bouncing back to play in 80 games last year. When factoring in the potential benefits of him playing against quality competition and continuing to develop, though, this is basically a wash. Plus, the decision came with plenty of warning as rumors had been trickling out for months.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter