It seems like only yesterday that we were talking about a Portland Trail Blazers dynasty in which Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge ruled, and where Nicolas Batum was a super role player, even garnishing comparisons to Scottie Pippen.
Flash forward 7 years, and only .5 of those 4 dynastic cornerstones remain with the team.
The latest departure, via trade with the Charlotte Hornets, is Batum. As we bid adieu to the flying Frenchman, the Blazer's Edge staff shares their reactions to his departure.
Dave Deckard, Managing Editor
You can read Dave's full analysis on the trade by clicking here.
Edit: Dave will also pop in at the last minute to say that as frustrating as he could sometimes be, Batum was a special player. Few Blazers have generated the level of excitement and passionate debate among Portland fans that Batum did in his 7 seasons here. Every time you wanted to count him out, he'd come up with a brilliant pass or defensive stop. Every time you wanted to say he'd made it, he'd slip into a slump, only to tantalize again down the line.
Batum's talent was easily evident to the eye. His first moments in Summer League showcased Batum's graceful glides to the hoop and a calm control of his body. He also looked like he didn't have a clue what he was doing. Foreshadowing FTW! But it didn't take long to realize that the guy was special. Nate McMillan, Terry Stotts, and Blazers fans all had a love-hate relationship with him; in the end the arrow always ended up pointing towards "love". You can't evoke that kind of response without being good at your craft.
If the specter of what Batum could have been--or of what he was in his best moments--ends up eclipsing his day-to-day production in history's collective memory, I'm fine with that. You can't claim that Batum revolutionized the team or led it to glory but he certainly made the game more interesting by giving us more than his share of beautiful moments on the court.
Bryan Renzi, Contributor
I was on a plane heading to the west coast yesterday, sneak-watching SportsCenter playing on the screen of a guy across the aisle, when I caught a brief glimpse of the words "Blazers Trading Batum to Charlotte." My initial reaction: Indignance at the use of the present participle of the key verb, "Trading." What the #@%! does that mean? You've either done it (traded, trade) or haven't, or are DISCUSSING a trade. What was going on here? Soundless ESPN wasn't much help here, and... no, don't change the channel, dude! There's nothing good on, I promise! And I have no internet to figure out what 'trading' means! Arggh, this flight is four more hours and now I'm going to have to cough up $7.99 to take control of my own screen.
My reaction upon confirming that Nic was trad-ED: They're blowing it up. Then: Actually, the Blazers might be tired of Batum playing for France and not being his best for them. He had a chance to make his mark on the team with Wes out, and he didn't. He may well have been the weakest link out of the starters at this point. He often wasn't very good on defense last year. I don't think he would be a rotation player on Golden State right now, and if what they did this year is the goal, maybe it's a good time to move on. Perhaps this is the opening salvo of a barrage of moves meant to win the battle of LaMarcus. As much as I've grown attached to this starting unit, and as sudden as this move seemed to everyone outside the organization, I have processed this pretty quickly, and am now leaning towards feeling that this is Olshey ahead of the game one way or the other.
Peter Sampson, Contributor
Ultimately, I like the trade. You're getting a solid (if unspectacular) shooting guard [Gerald Henderson] to replace Arron Aflallo, and Noah Vonleh has loads of potential. He could be flipped for another asset, or looked at as a possible replacement if Aldridge bolts.
I think Batum will bounce back this year, but after 7 years in the league you just can't claim "potential" anymore. I think that we all kept waiting for Batum to have that breakout season and it simply never happened.I remember he would rack up multiple consecutive games of double digit rebounds or assists and then say "Coach told me I need to crash the boards more" or "Coach told me to facilitate more." So the real question is why isn't he doing these things every night? At this point in his career, many of us expected Nic to have grown into a 2007-era Tayshaun Prince clone, and it didn't happen. Now is a good time to move him for an asset/flexibility and let someone else dream about his "potential."
Dan Graves, News Team
In a nut shell, it was time to move on. All season long, I was a Batum stalker (stats wise). Like the years before, waiting for all of that unheralded potential to come to the surface, and finally once and for all claim his rightful spot as a part of the Big 4. Problem was, it seemed like once a month he was "banged up".Then he acknowledged that playing for the French National team during the previous summer took its toll on him (something all of us already knew).
One thing I will say about Batum: He was always more than willing and gracious to acknowledge his inconsistent, sub-par play. At season's end, when he announced that he was heading for France to once again join the National Team… that was it for me. And obviously, for Neil Olshey and the guy that signs his checks, Paul Allen.
Hayden Gehr, News Team
Whether it was an effort to open up cap space, a reaction to a disappointing season from a trusted starter, or the first step of a Neil Olshey master plan that cannot yet be understood by onlookers, I refuse to think that Nicolas Batum needed to, or should have been, traded. Gerald Henderson adds depth to the backcourt and provides insurance if Wesley Matthews departs, and I'm hearing nothing but promising reports concerning Noah Vonleh, but right now all I can think about is the loss of a player who has been such an integral part of the Trail Blazers' identity and culture for the past seven seasons.
See, like many of you who are in your teens or early 20's, it is hard to fathom the concept of a Batum-less Portland roster. The Frenchman was widely embraced by the city of Portland as a young, exciting athlete with a penchant for highlight blocks and dunks, who also happened to be a likable, mild-mannered, humble guy. My Mom once ran into Batum at a Fred Meyer and asked him to sign a Blazers t-shirt, to which he gladly obliged. She surprised me by gifting me the shirt when she got home, and to this day it has been the only piece of autographed Blazers memorabilia I have ever owned. Now, the sight of that shirt in my closet will be a bittersweet one. I'll see it and remember "Batman's" biggest moments with Rip City: His game-winning alley-oop finish against the Spurs in 2011. The legendary "5x5" stat line game. And, of course, Brian Wheeler's countless bellowings of "BATUUUUUM-SHAKA-LAKA." On the other hand, I'll remember his shortcomings that ultimately factored into his departure from Portland:His tendency to disappear during long stretches of games. His often hesitant, conservative style of play. Batum was Mr. Do-It-All, a true luxury, but it's hard to shake the feeling that if he had been a little more selfish, assertive, and even angry, he could have pushed the Blazers over the top.
However, regardless of what could have been, Nicolas was a supremely talented, much-loved class act during his seven-year tenure as a Blazer. We will all miss him, and I think Blazers point guard Damian Lillard summed it up best when he Tweeted: "Toughest part of the business..."
Eric Griffith, Video Coordinator
Batum's bucket capped an improbable comeback that saw the Blazers score 4 points in the final 9/10ths of a second (the original .9?). The Blazers did not have much playoff success during Batum's time with the team, but the elation after thrilling regular season games like this one are a good reminder of how many exciting moments Batum brought to the Blazers and its fans.
Brandon Goldner, Social Media Editor
That was my immediate reaction to the Batum trade. I figured it meant that the team was moving in a different direction, and that they knew something the rest of us didn't about the fate of LaMarcus Aldridge.
I can be a sentimental guy. Going from thinking that the Blazers were going to get multiple playoff runs (and possibly deep runs) with the same core, to seeing the first fissure in what could be a landslide of player movement... it's tough.
However, after some thought and a tasty drink, I started thinking that it could be a good thing. Maybe not in a vacuum, but as part a larger whole. And I guess, in times when things change, finding the positive spin is probably for the best.