I'm on vacation for a couple weeks. For the first one I'm going to respond to some mailbag questions. As I do, I'm reflecting on how appreciative I am of people who send these in. I remember my first couple years doing this. We had some questions but by mid-July I was stuck trying to conjure topics out of thin air all the way through September. Now I couldn't get through the mailbag stuff if I locked myself in a hermit's cave and did nothing but. This is a much easier way to spend the summer! Thanks to all who help out by sending their inquiries.
Who does Nicolas Batum's agent think he's kidding? Batum's dream is to play in Minnesota? Come on! What is this [less that polite synonym for 'rhetoric']? This is all a gigantic bluff or some kind of French April Fool's thing, right?
Dreaming of playing in Minnesota? I could see that being his lifelong dream if he was Norwegian and loved lutefisk and white gravy, but he's French. His cuisine outstrips Scandinavian fare like Dwight Howard outstrips Hasheem Thabeet. So no, I'm not buying Minnesota as the fondest yearning of Batum's heart. I don't know how "flowery exaggeration" translates in French but that's what we're hearing from Bouna Ndiaye.
On the other hand there's the old adage, "Don't draw your gun unless you intend to use it." We are not seeing an elaborate bluff here. Minnesota may not be Batum's lifelong dream but he really would be more than happy to play there now alongside Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio. In fact he's probably more eager to play there than he is to return to Portland. His agent isn't lying about that. If they could force a sign-and-trade they'd be pleased as punch. If the Blazers don't match an $11.5 million offer, so much the better. Blazer fans have to come to grips with the fact that their prize restricted free agent wants to be somewhere else.
On the other, other hand Batum is 23. Plenty of us wanted things at 23. Few of us got them, at least not immediately. Being denied your ideal vision at 23 isn't a bad thing. Living in the gap between desire and fulfillment you get to test how ideal your vision really is. More to the point, you learn that life isn't about having every wish granted. It's about making the most out of what you've got in any circumstance, especially those which fall short of your ideal. If the Blazers match a Batum offer sheet he'll go through that process and, with any kind of wisdom and tenacity at all, will grow from it.
Even if Batum wants to go elsewhere, being denied that probably won't end up blotting his record or his life. More likely we'll hear how happy he is to return as soon as the ink is dry on his new contract. He'll recommit to the Blazers, grow up more in Portland, and develop into whatever kind of player he's going to be...just like everybody does in their mid-20's. If that doesn't happen--if he's re-signed but his train derails in Portland--it means something is dreadfully wrong with him, with this franchise, or both. I'm guessing we won't see that. Odds are this summer's posturing and sniping will be a momentary squall, quickly forgotten.
Keep in mind that if Batum is really serious about getting out of Portland he could always sign the one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He'd have to put his money where his mouth is, because that offer is only $4.4 million. He'd not make up the $7 million or so he'd lose this season. But hey, what's a dream worth?
PS Blazers GM Neil Olshey's Monday comments on Batum can be read here.