It speaks volumes of the Portland Trail Blazers’ wealth of talent that they’ve started the season 20-6 despite uncharacteristic play from Nicolas Batum. The multifaceted 6-9 wing is shooting career-low marks from the field and three-point range, and using fewer possessions than he has since his rookie year. But this wasn’t the plan for 2014-2015, and Batum is confident that his game – and health – will come around soon enough as the result of a more aggressive mindset.
The 26 year-old Frenchman says he learned a new mentality this summer while leading his country to a bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup without Tony Parker. And once he’s no longer bothered by a balky right knee, Batum will implement it for the Blazers.
Via Shams Charania of Real GM:
“I try to do everything on the court, but I know I got to be more aggressive,” Batum told RealGM. “The team needs it. Everybody’s pushing me here. When Tony Parker didn’t play with us this summer, Boris Diaw and I had to step up our games. That was a cool learning experience for me. Here, we’re all young and I would like to be the guy for LaMarcus and Damian. I would like that a lot. But I know I need to be aggressive, and it is coming.”
“I’m working on the knee, working to get it back to 100 percent,” Batum said. “It isn’t yet and it has bothered me a little bit, but it is coming along. I’ll get it right…”
Though Batum says he’ll eventually attempt more shots this season than the 9.2 he’s currently averaging, he’s also sure to point out that scoring has never been his inclination. Batum grew up idolizing Scottie Pippen, and that’s evident in the way he plays – setting up teammates, locking down scorers, and taking shots the defense affords him.
An overlooked aspect of Portland’s strong start is small regression offensively. Terry Stotts’ team ranks ninth with a 106.0 offensive rating, a mark 2.3 points off the pace it established in 2013-2014. And though Batum’s major labors – 37.1 percent from the field, 23.3 percent from three-point range, an inconsequential 1.0 free throw attempt per game – aren’t helping things, they aren’t the sole cause of that slight decline, either.
The Blazers score 106.6 points per 100 possession with him on the court and 105.2 when he’s off it, a minuscule discrepancy similar to those of Wes Matthews and Robin Lopez. As to be expected, the presences of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge have the biggest influence on Portland’s offense.
There’s a next step to be taken for the Blazers. They’re a clear playoff team in the Western Conference monster, but are still a notch below several other squads when it comes to championship pecking order. If Batum gets healthy and embraces the attitude he had for the French national team, there’s certainly a chance Portland moves up those ranks.
What do you think?
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