Batum Not the Only Trailblazer Olympian
Representing your country in any sport is phenomenal. As the Olympics continue from now until closing ceremonies on August 12, across the world, spectators that enjoy the highest level of competition are tuned in at all hours of the day and night watching.
There is something truly special about the Olympics and only the best from each country get to compete in the many different events, which is likely the highest of honor for any athlete. Events like track and field, swimming and gymnastics typically steal the show at the Olympics but basketball aficionados will definitely get their fix.
In watching the basketball games for the men, NBA players make up a large majority of all the Olympic rosters but not every franchise is accounted for. The Pacific Northwest is in full effect and the Portland Trailblazers make that list of teams that are accounted for.
While the Blazers unfortunately aren’t represented on the US roster, the recently re-signed Nicolas Batum teams with NBA notables Tony Parker, Ronnie Turiaf and Boris Diaw on the France roster. Batum is seemingly worth his new deal in Portland as he is a sixth-man in the Rose Garden, but a starter on the international team for France.
Batum seems to be enjoying his Olympic debut and is a key member for Portland, just as he is for France. The competitive nature of the games certainly stood out after a United States blowout of France, 98-71 in which Batum, didn’t necessarily play up to par.
“You got to play a 40-minute game, control the rebounds, take care of the ball and play good defense,” Batum said. “Some teams can do it, you know. I think some team can beat them (USA), really. Spain, Argentina, Brazil. A lot of teams.”
The fact is though, even in wake of the US being highly favored to win the gold, Batum isn’t the only Trailblazer in the Olympics. Great Britain’s Joel Freeland will finally make his Blazers debut this season after being drafted by Portland six years ago.
Drafted at number 30 overall in 2006, Freeland was encouraged to continue his development in Europe as a fresh-faced 19 year old that had only been playing basketball for three years. Now, 25, with a deal reported at $9 million over three years, Freeland is supposedly ready for NBA waters.
“Everything happened so quickly,” Freeland said. “After the Spain game last week, I found out (about the offer), made the final decision and jumped over there. It’s been a great experience, now I’m just focused on the challenge ahead.”
To have one player from your franchise representing their country says a lot. Having multiple players probably puts any franchise in another category no matter what particular country the players play for as team USA, especially in both men and women’s basketball, is always heavily favored.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are well represented in the Olympic games with four players on the team USA roster. NBA stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden represent the Thunder for the US. Thunder teammate Serge Ibaka is one of a few big names playing for Spain teaming up with the Gasol brothers in Pau and Marc.
The Blazers also have a 6’9” representative from and for the Spain team in rookie Victor Claver. Batum, Freeland and Claver give the Blazers three Olympic caliber players this upcoming season and let’s not forget a former Blazer in Rudy Fernandez also playing for Spain that if nothing else, keeps the Blazers franchise active and well represented in these historic, Olympic games.