French basketball website Basket USA recently interviewed one of France's favorite sons, Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum. Naturally the interview was conducted in French, but one of our favorite readers--amlmart1, was good enough to translate for us. The text follows:
Before accepting the unprecedented challenge of our NBA quiz - which will be released in December on Basket USA - Nicolas Batum has agreed to come to talk with us about the current Blazers winning streak : 9 wins in a row! For the French wing, who won last night in Charlotte, the arrival of Steve Blake and Chris Kaman allows Portland to display a richer and more complementary roster than ever.
Nico, Portland is in a nine-game win streak after a sluggish start of season. Did you click, or did you just need time?
I think we just needed a little bit of time. We beat OKC but then we lost in Sacramento, which has a good team this year. We lost at home against Golden State when we were 4 up with 1 minute left in the 4th quarter, these two defeats were a little bit silly. Then we bowed to the Clippers when we were 15 up in the second quarter, that's another defeat we could have avoided. It is not so surprising though since we had not had a great preseason. Right now things are getting in place quietly. Steve (Blake) and Chris (Kaman) are fitting in great, they are really big contributors for us. Everyone is finding their own rhythm, and we´re re taking up last year's habits again.
You talk about a missed pre-season, so you mean that´s important at the beginning of a team season?
Of course! Even if we practiced very much and very well, we did not translate it into the games. But that was only at the beginning of the season, now we're on the rise, much like last year. We started on 2-2 and got healthy again against Dallas (25 points). We then followed with 11 wins.
The improvement of the bench was the main thing to accomplish this summer in order to finally take the next step?
Absolutely! Mo Williams was replaced by Steve Blake. It's not the same kind of player but these are two strong leaders. For me, the contribution off the bench is similar. I had played with Steve. I know him very well. He can run a team and he has a really good read on the game. Chris is the player we were missing, a guy who can post up inside. For me he is one of the best interior backups in the league. He was an All Star only 4 years ago! He still has big games. I think that as big man and post up guy coming off the bench there are not many like him in the NBA. He is able to make 16-8 in 22 minutes, he's super valuable. When he and Aldridge play together, they become difficult to play against because they each have their side to post up.
The big difference by now compared with last season, is that you have been successful without LaMarcus being a monster. He is just good!
That's what's good. With the team we have, we have so many weapons, everyone is in his role, Lillard is already having a big season, like Wesley, I do my thing, Robin does huge work, he had a big season and he deserves not to be underestimated. The five (starters) do their task, and on the bench, you got a guy like Steve Blake who will make you 6 points, 5 assists in 20 minutes, Chris who gives you 12-6 in 25 minutes, Joel Freeland who does a huge work that does not show in the stats. Then there´s Allen (Crabbe), who is trending up. I love him as a player.
When Lillard praises you publicly, as he did recently, does it flatter you?
Yes, that's nice. He is a star in the league now, and inevitably, when he said that, it had an impact. I know my role on this team, and I know what to do to make it run and win.
If you miss out on the All Star Game again, would it be a frustration or, ultimately, you do not care?
I´d prefer to have a ring, I tell you. This [All-Star Game] is not really a goal. If I'm going, all the better, but if that´s not the case it´s not something serious. There are so many players in the NBA ... My only hope is the vote from the coaches, not the one from the public, but we'll see. I'll continue to do my work.
Thanks again to amlmart1 for giving us the translation!