Nicolas Batum - Page 2

Portland vs. Cleveland: How Nicolas Batum, Blazers Pulled out Much-Needed Win

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 118-117, in double-overtime on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Blazers (7-10) pulled out a much-needed victory after having lost their first four games of the current seven-game trip.

After Nicolas Batum‘s near game-winning shot was called after the buzzer in the first overtime, Batum came up big once again with a go-ahead three-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining to help Portland break its skid.

Here are the grades, analysis and breakdown of the Blazers’ victory.

 

Player of the Game

Nicolas Batum: 22 points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 7-15 FG

The 23-year-old Batum had struggled with consistency over the past couple games, but when it counted the most, he was there on Saturday.

His ability to hit the clutch-shot and come up big when needed have been big question marks over his career. There is no doubt that having a game-winning shot under his belt will grow Batum‘s confidence.

 

 

Key Moment of the Game

Is there any doubt?

While Damian Lillard returned to form after having endured a rough road trip, Batum lifted his team when it needed it the most.

His three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left was a difficult shot. A miss would have left the Blazers devastated.

 

Lillard Watch

The life of being a rookie in the NBA had caught up to Lillard on the current road trip.

Lillard has been shooting poorly as he learns to adjust to how teams defend him. However, Lillard came up huge by reminding people why he is considered the front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

The Weber State product had 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in 46 minutes. Lillard scored nine of the Blazers’ 27 points in both overtime periods.

Since 1985, only Derrick Rose, Allen Iverson and Lillard have scored 300 points and dished 100 assists in their first 17 career games (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

 

Tweets of the Night

Feel good to get a win, need the next 2 before we go home. Nice effort by everybody! #RipCity

— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) December 1, 2012

 

Crazy how one great shot will completely change the mood of the #Blazers locker room.

— Mike Tokito, The Oregonian, (@mtokito) December 1, 2012

 

What They Said

“It was much needed,” coach Terry Stotts said. “And that’s an understatement.” (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian)

“I feel great,” Batum said “This was a good game to watch for all the fans.” (via ESPN.com)

“With all the mistakes we made, that game never should have went to the first overtime,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “We were lucky and played with fire the whole night. But we got burned.” (via Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer)

 

Final Grade: B+

Make no mistake, this game was against the lowly Cavaliers, who fell to 4-13 overall and a dreadful 2-4 at home.

But there were several positive signs:

Each Blazer starter scored in double figures. More importantly, Portland’s bench contributed 29 points—17 more than its season average.

Every Blazers reserve scored, led by Joel Freeland (eight points), Will Barton (seven) and Nolan Smith (six).

Wesley Matthews also contributed his career-high with 10 assists to go along with his 11 points. Former Cavalier J.J. Hickson had 11 points and five rebounds.

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Houston vs. Portland: How Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard Led Blazers to Big Win

The Portland Trail Blazers won their second in a row with a thrilling 119-117 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night at the Rose Garden.

The Blazers (4-5) received career-high performances from rookie point guard Damian Lillard and forward Nicolas Batum. Portland’s starters combined to score 109 of the team’s 119 points, continuing a theme of the starting lineup needing to score big to win.

It marked the first time the Blazers had three players score at least 27 points in the same game in 15 years. The last time was Nov. 14, 1997, when Isaiah Rider scored 35 points, Brian Grant scored 34 and Arvydas Sabonis scored 31 in a 140-139 double-overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

Batum (35), LaMarcus Aldridge (29) and Lillard (27) were the team’s leading scorers.

Here are the grades, analysis and breakdown of the Blazers’ victory.

 

Co-Players of the Game.

Lillard: 27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists; Batum: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists

Usually this space is reserved for just one player, but the combination of Lillard and Batum was spectacular against the Rockets.

Batum, who continues to justify his contract, tied his career high with 35 points and added five blocks. The other players who have achieved that feat since 2007 are Aldridge, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

Lillard gave a Brandon Roy-esque performance down the stretch, carrying the Blazers late in the fourth quarter and in overtime.

 

Key Moment of the Game

Houston took a three-point lead to begin the overtime session off James Harden’s three-point play.

The Rockets would not make another field goal over the final three minutes, 44 seconds. Lillard took over, nailing a three-pointer and a 23′ jumper to tie the game, 116-116.

Aldridge then closed the game out with a free throw and a jumper with 36 seconds left to seal the win.

 

Lillard Watch

At one stretch during the fourth quarter and overtime, Lillard scored 14 of the Blazers’ 16 points.

Houston led by as many as seven points late in the fourth, but Lillard was tremendous and gave Portland a chance to cap an impressive comeback win in regulation.

The 27 points were a career high. He became the first player with at least 20 points in six of his first nine career games since Allen Iverson in 1996 (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

The performance certainly cements Lillard as the leader in the Rookie of the Year race right now.

 

Tweets of the Night

That was fun. , and I’m exhausted lol

— Wesley Matthews (@wessywes2) November 16, 2012

 

Great team win!

 

Great game, great win, great Rose Garden, great night…be careful tonight, have a good night!

— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) November 16, 2012

 

Final Grade: A-

What a game.

The Blazers will just have to face the fact that their bench will not produce anything offensively. The starters, however, are carrying their weight.

The Rockets had more rebounds, assists, steals, fast-break points and points in the paint, but Portland hung in there and somehow pulled out the victory.

This will be the kind of season we can expect from the Blazers—truly exciting wins that make you salivate over their future, while other nights, they might lay an egg.

But, definitely, this is a win to cherish and celebrate for one night.

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Where Did The Week Go…

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As a sports fan, when you go into a season knowing expectations aren’t very high for your team, it’s kind of a good thing. That way you can sort of relax when you sit down and watch them because the bar is already set really low.

Having said that, this particular incarnation of the Portland Trail Blazers has been pleasantly surprising. I know it’s only six games and they’ve lost three straight to fall to 2-4, but except for a terrible performance against the Clippers, Portland has been competitive.

The fact that they’ve been in every game indicates that the young players are (so far) buying into coach Terry Stotts and his coaching philosophy. But, this is the beginning of a long season so we’ll see how long they can keep this up.

In the mean time, here’s some quick observations so far.

Coach Stotts thinks LaMarcus Aldridge is Dirk Nowitzki:

Get closer Aldridge.

Every season, it seems like coaches, analysts and fans plead for Aldridge to score more in the paint. When it didn’t happen in the first few years, Aldridge was labeled soft and unwilling to take contact.

But that changed two seasons ago when the unfortunate end of the Brandon Roy era forced Aldridge to be the man. As a result, Aldridge suddenly turned into an entirely different player. He made a concerted effort to get in the paint and bang instead of settling for outside jumpers. This drastic and welcomed change eventually earned him an All-Star selection.

But under new coach Stotts, Aldridge seems to be reverting back to his old ways. With the exception of put-backs and offensive rebounds, Aldridge is doing most of his scoring from the outside. With his high-arcing follow-through, it’s hard for opposing players to block his shots and so far he’s been making those fade-away jumpers, but being closer to the basket increases your chances of putting the ball in the basket.

It’s still early and Stotts is probably still experimenting with Aldridge and Lillard together, but the team needs to establish a low-post scoring option at some point.

Great starting five, not much after that: 

This isn’t a big surprise. With the injury to Elliot Williams during training camp, my interest in the Blazers’ bench dropped considerably. There’s not one reliable player coming off the bench, not one. Can any other team in the league say that?

So far there’s been flashes of productivity from Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Luke Babbit and rookie Meyers Leonard, but they haven’t all been in the same game. The victory over Houston was big, but the bench only contributed 6 points. In the loss to San Antonio on Saturday, the bench was outscored 63-4 (No that’s not a typo).

Of course there are other ways for players to contribute than scoring, but they can’t continue to rely on the starters playing more than 40 minutes every night. Someone has to step up. Remedy: Bring J.J. Hickson off of the bench and start Myers Leonard. Hickson appears to be a different player when he isn’t on the floor at the same time as Aldridge. Having him play against second-unit competition will not only give the bench a spark, but it will only boost Hickson’s confidence even more for late-game situations when you need him over the young Leonard.

Speaking of the bench. Don’t play Nolan Smith: 

It’s just not working out Nolan.

It pains me to say this, but Nolan Smith might be the worst player in the NBA. He seems to be incapable of dribbling with his left hand, he turns the ball over constantly and he’s not entirely quick for a guard. When Portland drafted him, I was excited. He was a name who went to Duke and played well his senior season when Kyrie Irving went down. But so far in his young pro career, Smith has proven to be nothing more than a name.

Mike Rice is more senile than ever:

Mike Rice has been with the Blazers’ organization since the early nineties. He worked on the radio side for a number of years before moving over to television with Mike Barrett. The duo have great chemistry and especially during a rebuilding year like this, you gain an appreciation for their entertaining banter.

Having said that, Rice appears to be aging rapidly. He knows his basketball, there’s no denying that, but he also seems to be having a “senior moment” more frequently.

At times this can be endearing. Like when he either mispronounces players’ names or combines them (I will now refer to Myers Leonard and Joel Freeland as Joel Myers as Rice put it the other night) or when he insists a player should have gotten that offensive rebound (even though said player is sitting on the bench).

But when does endearing turn into comical and a little sad. He’s had a great run in Portland, but perhaps it’s time for some fresh blood (Insert me here).

Nicolas Batum’s performance against San Antonio is very encouraging:

Portland needs more nasty out of Batum.

That’s the Batum I want to see every night. Not the passive wing player who disappears from time to time, but the nasty, pissed off player who demands the ball, wants to take the last shot and isn’t afraid too (even if he misses it like he did against the Spurs).

If we get “the dark side” of Batum more often than this team will have a chance to win a lot more games and the Frenchman can live up to the contract he just signed.

Damian Lillard is legit:

The Gerald Wallace trade last year appears to have worked out as Portland received Brooklyn’s lottery pick and drafted the young point guard out of Weber State. So far Lillard’s done nothing but put up rookie records in the same category as Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas and Lebron James.

The biggest challenge for Lillard (and you’ve seen it the last three games) is for him to adjust once other team’s have adjusted to him. Against Dallas, Darren Collison attacked Lillard immediately and got him into foul trouble in the first quarter. Against the Clippers and Spurs, Lillard saw a lot more double-teams and as a result, the guard made rookie mistakes like turning the ball over and trying to do everything by himself when the team wasn’t playing well.

But Lillard appears to get it. He’s poised, calm and willing to take the big shot or make the right pass if it’s there. It’s still early, but so far it appears Portland has found the player they needed to replace Brandon Roy.

Initial Report Card Grades for Each Portland Trail Blazers Youngster

The first week of the NBA has ended, and players more or less have foreshadowed their performances for the rest of this season.

The young Blazers presented some pleasant surprises, as they sank the star-studded Lakers with terrific performances from all of their starters, and went on create a two-win, two-loss even record in the West.

While some veterans such as franchise star LaMarcus Aldridge contributed to the wins, most of it was done by youngsters like rookie Damian Lillard and four-year player Nicolas Batum.

Players like Luke Babbitt, Victor Claver or Joel Freeland didn’t play enough games to be judged properly. Others such as Will Barton or Nolan Smith didn’t play enough minutes to be assessed.

Here are the report card grades for five Portland Trail Blazers youngsters under 26 years old.

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Ranking the Importance of Each Portland Trail Blazers for 2012-13

Every team has its order of players.

Ranging from franchise superstar to seldom-used role player, each roster encompasses different types of players who contribute to the team in various ways.

The Portland Trail Blazers have a wide range of players, acquired through either draft or trade—some considered quintessential and key to the team’s success, while others are expendable and less important.

Here is the ranking of importance for each Portland Trail Blazer, going from least to most.

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The Critical Improvement Each Young Portland Trail Blazers Player Must Make

What should a young NBA player do to become great? As Kobe Bryant once said, you have to be “chasing perfection,” finding holes in your game and making improvements.

That is the situation with most of the Portland Trail Blazers.

They have 11 players under the age of 26. Six have NBA experience—Luke Babbitt, Nicolas Batum, J.J. Hickson, Wesley Matthews, Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith. The rest are rookies—Will Barton, Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland.

None of the 11, not even the highly touted Damian Lillard, is perfect. Each has critical improvements to make. 

Here’s the breakdown.

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NBA Podcast: Portland Trail Blazers Complete 2012-13 Season Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers are rebuilding at a quick tempo, but is it enough to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference?

In this episode of “Basketball by Association,” NBA assistant editors Ethan Norof and Joel C. Cordes break down all the key roster losses and additions, discuss the biggest storylines to watch and set realistic expectations for the Blazers.

(If the embedded player fails to load, you can find the episode here.)

How good must Damian Lillard be for this team to build around him and LaMarcus Aldridge? How much longer will Aldridge stick around if the Blazers take awhile to get back to contender status?

Meyers Leonard and Will Barton will both play sizable roles on this young roster, but what exactly do the two rookies bring to the table? Can Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum bounce back and develop, respectively? Who else will step up to square away this fluctuating rotation and bench?

Finally, was Terry Stotts the right man for the job? 

Bleacher Report’s “Basketball by Association” is your final destination for all things NBA!

Check back often to find our season previews for all 30 NBA teams here.

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Portland Trail Blazers: Five Glaring Questions for 2012-13 Season

The Portland Trail Blazers are just beginning a new era after their young duo of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, as well as veterans Marcus Camby and Andre Miller, was either traded to or signed by other teams.

Last season, the Blazers, shaky in a transition period, missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season and finished fourth in the Northwest Division, their worst record in five years.

In the fiasco, the Blazers decided to go on with more changes, firing head coach Nate McMillan and trading away other experienced players for prospects and draft picks.

Every team needs a change once in a while. The question is whether the change impacts the team positively or negatively. 

Presumably, the new 2012-13 season will reflect the direction of the franchise over the next few years – whether it would be a relegation to a perennial lottery team or a successful transition into a young contender.

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Portland Trail Blazers: Stat Projections for the Starting Unit

After a disappointing season for the Portland Trail Blazers in which the team struggled through insubordination, lost long-time coach Nate McMillan and ultimately fell far short of the playoffs, the Blazers are ready to get back on track with a revamped roster featuring two lottery picks and a healthy cluster of young players looking to make their mark. 

With such a different roster from the start of the season a year ago, it’s difficult to predict how well players will perform in the coming season. However, that is exactly what I will now attempt to do. 

Due to the imprecise and tricky nature of predicting statistical production from human beings, I chose to use decimals only to a half-point degree, as the purpose of the article is more to predict general production than to accomplish the unlikely task of perfectly predicting a player’s stats.

Furthermore, if a player produces at such a low rate in any statistical category that his average is likely to fall below 0.5 per game, I will not include the stat to spare you the pointless and tiring argument over whether Will Barton will average 0.2 or 0.4 blocks per game. 

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Batum Reveals Childish Temperament

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NBC and the Olympic Committee keep pulling these down, we’ll try to keep a working link here. –ed.

When did punches to the groin become a fashionable part of basketball? And didn’t we just see this a couple days ago?  In a 126-97 United States victory over Argentina, Carmelo Anthony was sucker punched in the groin by Facundo Campazzo, which was really a punk move, but looked innocent and sheepish in a way.

Campazzo’s didn’t seem as if were intended with malice but more like little brother giving-in knowing there’s no other way to win, so alas, the good ole sucker punch to the you-know-where.

Just a day later, and without what seemed to be any regard for discretion, Portland TrailBlazers’ forward, and Team France representative, Nicolas Batum angrily took a swing and direct shot at the groin of the Spanish player Juan Carlos Navarro in a 66-59 loss by France to team Spain.

The way Batum looked in the video, you would think he was going to punch Navarro in the face and square up with him for 12 rounds, but it wasn’t even that serious apparently.

“I wanted to give him a good reason to flop,” Batum told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

It’s curious as to why Batum would get so angry towards a player far less talented than himself. Navarro is not NBA-talented, yet still was able to get under the Frenchman’s skin.

Batum should have been more worried about his so-so Olympic performance, especially after a 3-of-12 outing and his embarrassing mental mishap as the game came to a close.  The Blazers as an organization most likely prefer leaders in comparison to followers, and Batum even though he apologized via Twitter, should be rightfully disappointed in himself for repeating what we had just seen only hours prior.

[tweet_embed id=233296279525027840]

Not in a way as if to chastise him but in the way that Batum should have been more than proud to exemplify the’ I’m bigger than that’ mantra when simply talking about flopping—a necessary nuisance to the game.  Then again, this is a 23-year old that maybe through his contract extension, has what could be a newfound ego.

Batum recently earned himself a contract worth $45-million dollars over four years, and the Blazers were seemingly in a fight over his services with the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Batum was outspoken in his thoughts about Team USA in a France opening loss and after an incident like this, it’s a wonder if his recent financial reward is leading him down a different path.

But come on Batum, are you for real?  Juan Carlos Navarro?  Things like that have to be brushed off and it’s only a wonder now if you have jeopardized a part of your career in the Olympic games.  Maybe the NBA can’t do anything about this, as far as a suspension, but there may not be another Olympics depending on what the committees can enforce.

And what do new general manager Neil Olshey, newly hired head coach Terry Stotts and the rest of the Blazers front office think about this?

Either way it seemed weak on the part of Batum to retaliate in such dramatic fashion for someone flopping, which although annoying is a laughable defensive tactic.