Former Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum revealed in a recent interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe that he “knew [LaMarcus Aldridge] was gone” when Batum was traded from Portland to the Charlotte Hornets in June 2015.
Nicolas Batum: LaMarcus was a free agent, Wesley Matthews was a free agent, and Robin Lopez was a free agent. So when I got traded, I’m like, OK, its over. LA is gone. When I got traded, I knew LA was gone.
Zach Lowe: Have you talked to LaMarcus about that, about that trade, and about him leaving?
NB: No, no, no. I mean, he gotta do his own thing. I mean, I don’t even talk about him, with him, about that, and when I got traded, I knew, just, it was over. I mean, it turned the page, it was gonna give the team to Damian and CJ. I mean, that’s a good thing, because sometimes you need to… just to turn the page.
Batum also addressed several other Blazer topics on the Nov. 4, 2016 episode of The Lowe Post podcast, including the breakup of the Aldridge-era Blazers, Damian Lillard’s 0.9 shot, Brandon Roy’s incredible performance during Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs, and Greg Oden’s injuries and work ethic.
On whether he thought the Aldridge-era Blazers had a shot at the title:
NB: Yeah! We were like, why not? You never know. I mean, Golden State was great, but you never know what could happen in basketball… [W]e knew that it was the Spurs, Golden State was great, but you never know so let’s give it a shot. But when Wes went down, something changed.
On Wesley Matthews’ impact on the locker room, and his absence after Matthews’ Achilles injury:
NB: We had to adjust, but we lost… the captain of this team. He was the heart and soul of this team. There were things, something went wrong, he was the first to talk in the locker room before the coach, and getting everybody, he didn’t care. He didn’t care. Yeah, and we missed that.
On Lillard’s game-winning, series-winning shot in Game 6 of the 2014 playoffs:
ZL: What was the play, what was is supposed to be?
NB: To be like a decoy screen, and a lob to LaMarcus.
ZL: Lob to LaMarcus around the rim.
NB: Yeah, and Dame broke the play, he was wide open, so I…
ZL: I think Houston broke the play. [Laughs]
NB: I mean to break the play at THAT moment? I mean, you’re gonna make the shot.
ZL: Did you know?
NB: Uh… yeah. I mean, if you break the play at THAT moment, it means, he knows he’s gonna make the shot, so I had to give it to him.
ZL: Are you looking at LaMarcus and you see this thing happening..?
NB: I’m faking the guy, but my mind is focused on LaMarcus. And I’m like, watching him and also Dame wide open. Like, he’s clapping, he’s like, “NIC! NIC! NIC!”… alright. Better make that shot.
On Brandon Roy’s performance in Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks:
ZL: He was like… I remember he was waving to the fans after that game was over, and he looked like he was either crying or on the verge of tears, it was kinda one of those things…
NB: He was emotional. He kinda knew I think at this moment, I mean, his knee would not get better. I think, I mean, I don’t know, maybe, I think, so, he knew it was maybe his last magical moment.
On Brandon Roy being the best player Batum every played with:
NB: [Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist] asked me, he said, how long you been in the NBA? I said this is my 9th year. He said, who the best player you ever play with in the league? Brandon Roy.
ZL: No brainer for you. Right away.
NB: Right away… He was like, no LaMarcus? No Dame? No… no. Those guys really, really, really good. I played 2 years… 3 years with Brandon Roy. Yeah. Best player I played with in the NBA.
On playing in Portland:
NB: ...that place is special. Portland is special. I loved it. I loved it.
ZL: You hear sometimes a lot of players don’t wanna play there because it’s out of the way, it’s, you know…
NB: To be honest, when I first got here, I was like, why am I here? The first time I got there, I was like, wow, I mean… special. I loved it.
The full episode of The Lowe Post interview with Batum can be found here. Blazers-related content starts at 11:29.
Batum played 481 games (428 starts) with the Blazers between 2008 and 2015, averaging 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game.