Nicolas Batum really wanted out of Portland. In the summer of 2012, Batum signed a $45 million offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves, with both he and the Timberwolves hoping the steep price would make the Trail Blazers hesitant to match. The Blazers didn’t hesitate, however, and matched Batum, bringing him back into the fold.
At the time, Batum wasn’t happy with the result, and it’s not hard to blame him. The Blazers were trapped in a state of uncertainty. They had LaMarcus Aldridge, but only two other players on contract. They drafted Damian Lillard, though it remained to be seen what he would become. Batum himself was a source of the uncertainty, not just because of his contract situation, but because he hadn’t quite developed as the team hoped. Oh, and they also didn’t have a coach.
Slowly, though, everything came together. Lillard turned out to be the real deal (and then some), Terry Stotts is one of the top coaches in the league and Batum has become a pivotal member of the Blazers’ success. He may not have been pleased with the Blazers in 2012, but that’s certainly not the case now, according to the Oregonian.
“We can imagine what it would have been like, and people say, yeah the injuries and everything, but who knows, maybe it would have been different?” Batum said. “The thing is, they matched, and after that they signed Terry, got Rolo, Dame became Dame, and bang – we are a 50-win team. I am very happy.”
It’s amazing how success (and money) changes a player’s perspective. Batum also says he wanted to play for the Timberwolves because of Rick Adelman’s offense. While Stotts’s flow offense isn’t the same as Adelman’s corner sets, it nonetheless features many similarities, including an emphasis on constant movement, something that’s very much suited to Batum’s strengths. If the Blazers had gone in a different direction when they hired a coach, maybe Batum wouldn’t have blossomed, maybe the Blazers wouldn’t be as good, and maybe Batum would still be less-than-thrilled. None of that matters now, though, because as it stands the Blazers are a Wesley Matthews injury away from being a legitimate title contender, making the team, and Batum, one big happy family.