Here's a quick round-up of reaction to Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum intentionally punching Juan Carlos Navarro in the crotch during a 2012 London Olympics quarterfinal game between France and Spain on Wednesday.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts' reaction is here. Blazers GM Neil Olshey's reaction is here.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes...
Batum's shot had come in the final seconds, and somehow he stayed on the floor. Batum clenched his fist, reached around a dribbling Navarro and swung straight down.
Had a United States player done this, there wouldn't have been another story discussed anywhere in these Olympics until the flame extinguished on Sunday night. Batum is an NBA player, but his act embarrassed France far more than the league. For whatever reason, the U.S. players are held to a standard of representing the NBA and the nation. Everyone else - the Gasols, the Kirilenkos - represent Spain and Russia, that's all.
If Batum's answers were completely honest, they're a public-relations nightmare. There are ways to deliver a hard foul without stooping to that kind of low-rent cheap shot. Later, Batum apologized on Twitter, but that was long after his first public words hit the Internet like a tsunami.
Ian Thomsen of SI.com reports some further post-game quotes from Batum...
"Last year in the finals they beat us," Batum said. "They beat us; we won the semifinals, we were happy to be there, we don't really play that game.'' They were happy because reaching that European final earned the French their invitation to these Olympics. "Today they didn't beat us,'' Batum went on. "We gave the game [away].
"We are mad because we got them. We got them and in the end, the last two or three minutes, we didn't score. We make some bad shots and we are a bit tired."
Steve Perrin of SBNation.com writes...
When Nicolas Batum of France hauled off and hit Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain in the waning seconds of Spain's 66-59 quarterfinal win on Wednesday in the Olympic basketball tournament, it seemed completely out of character. Batum has been a terrific player in his four seasons in Portland, good enough that the Trail Blazers matched a 4-year, $46 million offer sheet for the restricted free agent this summer, and he's always been a class act. However, with emotions running high in a game that France had given away down the stretch with abysmal fourth quarter shooting, Batum was fed up with what he felt was excessive playacting by the Spanish players throughout the game. If he had to give a foul to stop the clock, he was going to give Navarro something to cry about; or in his own words, "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop."
There's absolutely no excuse for what Batum did on that play. You could reasonably question whether he literally meant to hit Navarro below the belt, but he closed his fist and wound up before delivering the blow, so it was completely uncalled for regardless of where the punch landed. It was also premeditated as his post-game comments indicated. Had the play occurred in an NBA game, Batum would have certainly been ejected and likely suspended as well. (Instead Batum was issued an Unsportsmanlike Foul, the FIBA equivalent of a Flagrant Foul in the NBA, resulting in two free throws and the ball for Spain, but no automatic ejection for Batum.) And though he was still upset in the locker room directly after the game when he referred to Spain's flopping as well as their tanking in pool play to take an easier route to the gold medal game, Batum eventually calmed down enough to realize that he had done a bad thing.
Mike Acker of Rip City Project writes...
The reactions to Nic's punch came both fast and furious, but with little to no variety. There were two camps represented. Most found the low blow reprehensible and dirty. Blazer fans, and even some members of the official payroll, were stoked to see the newest big-money player showing a little bit of fire and tenacity.
I essentially agree with both opinions. Nic needs to show some more aggression, but he needs to probably not punch too many more dudes in the crotch.
The question that remains is, will there be any overall takeaway from Wednesday's incident. For the purpose of continuing to not take sides, I'll say yes and no. Starting with yes.
Nicolas Batum needs to take a couple of steps in 2012-13. Those steps include getting better with the ball in his hands, adding a back to the basket game, and developing into an actual leader. The Olympics have given Nic a chance to establish himself as a leader for his country. He couldn't always do it on the floor, but at the very least he could show that he wasn't above getting in a cheap shot in an effort to save a little face.
Josh Levin of Slate.com writes...
In France's quarterfinal loss to Spain, Frenchman Nicolas Batum crotch-chopped Juan Carlos Navarro. After the game, Batum told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski that the Spanish players were flopping all game long. "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop," said Batum, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.
In addition to the in-game flopping, Batum was mad that Spain took a badminton-style dive in pool play, saying it violated the "Olympic spirit." In its final preliminary game against Brazil, the Spaniards were outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter to lose by six. This come-from-ahead loss-which the Spaniards denied was intentional despite it obviously being intentional-allowed Pau and Marc Gasol and co. to avoid a potential match-up with Team USA until the gold-medal game.
Though Batum later tweeted an apology for his "stupid act," perhaps his groin-based brand of vigilantism is the solution to the London Games' tanking problems. Be warned, Olympians: If you lose intentionally, the Groin Lantern will be there, ready to punch you in the junk.
Royce Young of CBSSports.com writes...
Obviously Batum's frustrations stemmed from the fact France let a very big opportunity to shock Spain slip away with a horrific six-point fourth quarter, but that clearly doesn't excuse that sort of foul. There was also some apparant annoyance from France at the Spanish antics, notably via Rudy Fernandez, as he seemed to oversell the contact on fouls writhing on the ground after minimal contact.
But to do that, well, that's just bad. With it being right there in the open court and in front of everyone, part of me wonders if Batum was just trying to hack Navarro extremely hard and hitting him in the groin was accidental. Hard to argue with the video though. And the fact Batum seemed to admit his intentions after the game.
Joe Jenkins of the New York Daily News writes...
Nicolas Batum will do just about anything to keep the French men's basketball team in the Olympic tournament. Just ask Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro.
In the closing seconds of their quarterfinal matchup, Batum fouled Navarro by punching him "below the belt" in an attempt to stop the clock and extend the game.
The classless gesture resulted in some pushing and shoving between the two squads but never escalated beyond that. Amazingly, Batum was not ejected from the game, but he was given an unsportsmanlike foul for his cheap shot.
Chris Ryan of Grantland.com writes...
Today, at the end of the men's basketball quarterfinal between France and Spain (which Spain won, 66-59), French forward Nicolas Batum landed the nut shot heard round the world on Spain's Juan-Carlos Navarro. After the game, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski asked Batum, who makes his money playing for Portland, why he went south of the border on the Spanish guard. Batum responded, "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop." No wonder David Kahn likes this guy so much. Batum would later apologize for the shot, on Twitter: "I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain." Good on him, though you would have to say the damage, both on Franco-Spanish relations and Navarro's family tree, has already been done.
The Willamette Week writes...
The proud Portland tradition of punching people in the testicles during basketball games continued today at the London Olympics.
This time it was Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum who took a swing at an opponent's groin, while representing France at the Games. He swung at Juan Carlos Navarro's crotch with 24 seconds left in France's quarterfinal loss against Spain.
Unlike mayoral candidate Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland), who earlier this year said he was aiming for an opponent's thigh during a pick-up game scuffle, Batum didn't deny his intention.
Mike Tokito of OregonLive.com writes...
Batum, after seeing what he perceived as a lot of flopping by Spain (especially former Blazers teammate Rudy Fernandez), was clearly getting very testy ... whoops, wasn't trying to do a pun there. Let me start over.
A few very loyal Blazers fans claimed at first that Batum was simply going for the ball ... darn! Did it again.
Let's just say this: Batum made a very stupid decision. Simple as that. He later went on Twitter and wrote: "I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain."
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm groin to move on ... damn!
Melanie Pimentel, Batum's girlfriend, writes on Twitter...
You can talk [expletive]... We [sic] proud of our team!
And im [sic] even more proud of my man @nicolas88batum
Im [sic] glad [Spanish] team look stupid thru [sic] the world [sic] eyes lol they loosing [sic] respect from everybody! Too much flopping! Its [sic] not hollywood yo!
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter