Blazersedge editor Ben Golliver provided the following reaction to Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum's groin punch of Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro during the 2012 London Olympics.
There's no place to start here except for at the end. Batum's punch has no place in basketball. Lest you think I'm even more of a humorless, pretentious loser than you already do, I want it noted for the record that I spent an hour on Wednesday coming up with a list of phrases that included: sack slapper, groin grinder, privates puncher, crotch crusher, and on, and on, and on.
It's not that there's no humor in this situation -- especially now that it's clear that Juan Carlos Navarro was not horrifically injured -- it's just that it doesn't belong on a basketball court. Not even during a heated rivalry, not even against an uber-annoying opponent, not even in the middle of a frustrating battle, not even at the end of a tough game, not even when national pride and four years of hard work is at stake. It was dirty, it was inexcusable, it was cheap and, like Batum later admitted, it was "stupid."
Full disclosure: Over the last five years, Rudy Fernandez has made me want to punch so many balls! He has that innate ability to sneak into the darkest corners of your mind with his foul simulation, over-dramatizations, self-centered outlook on his career and all the rest of it. He knows it too! He enjoys it! That probably makes it even more frustrating. But who hasn't wanted to just rage out on a stranger's or colleague's lower mid-section after Fernandez pulled his "I'm not going" stunt at media day, or complained about his role, or gave his 135th disgruntled interview toMarca (I met one of their writers in Las Vegas and he was an A+ class guy, by the way, but I digress)? Fernandez is and was so annoying that he often made me want to punch myself in my own groin without the aid of a pillow, cup or other outside object. Just kapow -- to feel immense pain as distraction. Surely, I'm not alone here.
Resisting the urge to let out frustration, anger or resentment in such an overtly destructive and violating manner is a major part of being an adult. Every day that you don't punch a fellow human in the private parts for no reason is a good day, a success. You don't get a gold medal for this restraint but it's a golden rule, and one that is reinforced as a golden unwritten rule on the hardwood.
For Batum, that restraint is a major part of being a franchise building block, a "$46 million man," a leader on and off the court, a competitor, a professional and a representative of both his organization and his country. He needed to do much better. He was right to apologize. Blazers coach Terry Stotts was right to say that he would address the incident in the future with Batum and Blazers GM Neil Olshey was absolutely wrong to try to sidestep the issue at the press conference by claiming he hadn't seen it. As the face of the franchise's management, it's Olshey's job to have seen it -- regardless of how busy his schedule was -- and to hold his player accountable in public rather than try to downplay it. Sure, he's the new guy and it's a tough stand to take. But you've got to stand for something or, at the very least, do better than play dumb and blind.
This play will follow Batum for years. Every time he messes up, no matter how big or small, the incident will be recalled, just like similar incidents have followed Reggie Evans and Chris Paul. Having watched Batum grow and play since Summer League 2008, that's unfortunate. He's a competitor, tougher than most people realize and very sharp. He let himself down. He did not live up to the very high standard he began setting as a teenager. Surely, whether already or in the future, he will regret this action.
To cheer on this type of play or to revel in it as a sign of his development in the "toughness" category is total folly. That type of aggression is the least useful type of aggression in basketball. It usually winds up with an ejection and suspension and it costs your team. Real aggression comes in scoring off the dribble, rebounding in traffic, stepping up in crunch time and carrying your team emotionally through difficult moments. Batum did some of those things during this Olympics run. The Navarro strike was a case of that development getting chucked out the window in favor of senselessness, not a reinforcement of those strides.