Paul McGuire, of the Houston Rockets blog Red 94, writes that he finds Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum "personally irritating" before going on to credit him as a key in Portland's victory over Houston on Saturday.
There may be players I may despise more, but there are few players who personally irritate me in this league as much as Nicolas Batum, which is all the more unreasonable given that it is for reasons completely beyond his control. All fanbases have the tendency to massively overrate their young prospects, which combined with the rabid fervor of Portland fans, served to elevate the young player's trade value and discussion about their potential to ludicrous heights. Batum was the unfortunate victim of this phenomenon, where Blazers fans and their management at one point seemed to hesitate including him in a theoretical trade for Chris Paul. Batum is far from alone (Rodrigue Beaubois and currently Derrick Favors are the latest targets of my irritation), but that sort of overrating of potential has always given me a sour taste in my mouth regarding him. However, their reasons can be understood when one examines his play as well as the fact that the Blazers seem to win or lose depending on his consistency. Tonight, he played well, shooting 4-6 from the 3 point line including one which gave the Blazers in overtime. Batum ultimately was the difference between the Blazers' first and second halves.
Jason Quick of The Oregonian wrote about Batum's consistency following a weak shooting night against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
In past years, when his capricious play would dot the stat sheet, it was easily masked. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge or Gerald Wallace were usually there to save the day. But now that Batum makes the big money, there comes big responsibility. If he continues to fade in and out of the picture, this franchise will be crippled. I believe the term general manager Neil Olshey uses is ‘pregnant" with a contract. Think Darius Miles.
To his credit, Batum on Friday was professional and accountable. He was humble and he was honest.
"This is the worst shooting night in my life ... and when I don't have my shot, I stop playing. It's my biggest weakness,'' Batum said. "I've got to work on that. And I have to realize the game is different this year for me. It's not about my contract - I don't care about that - it's about my teammates. If I play good tonight, we win the game. That's on me.''
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes about Batum's second half against Houston.
On Saturday morning, after the Blazers' team meeting at their Houston hotel, coach Terry Stottsasked Batum to hang back for a one-on-one chat as the rest of his teammates shuffled to their rooms. The previous night against the Thunder, Stotts had watched the Blazers' $44 million man make just 1 of 11 shots and finish with a final line of three points, two assists and one rebound.
Stotts couldn't care less about the scoring. The best of the best have off nights. But he was irked that Batum allowed his cold shooting to affect everything else, that he essentially checked out once his offense betrayed him. Batum could still block shots. He could force steals. He could create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
"He struggled to start the game off, but he didn't let it bug him," [Wesley] Matthews said of Batum, who finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, a career-high six steals, four assists and two blocks. "I kept talking to him, saying, 'Nic, just do everything else. Do everything else.' And that's what he did. He was blocking shots, he was hustling, he was assisting, he was stealing. That's what gets your flow going, that's what gets you into the game. He was huge for us."
Dave's thoughts on Batum are here and re-printed below.
Nicolas Batum's game also reflected the duality that straddled halftime tonight. In the first half he was unsteady and unaware at best, awful at worst. His shot selection, defense, posture...everything about his game was uninspired. After the half he started sinking shots and sweeping away Houston layups with his famous blocks from behind. His energy went through the roof and he became a one-man terror. So...praise and applause for 17 points, 4-6 three-point shooting, 6 steals, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. If Batum played both halves every night like he played the second half tonight people wouldn't just be talking about James Harden as the breakout star of the new season.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter