photo courtesy of fan cloud.com
When people bring up the Trail Blazers, two names immediately jump into mind; LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. The two of them make up the back bone of the team, for sure. However, one man has managed to turn himself into something of a ghost since his NBA debut back in 2008.
Nicolas Batum has every intangible required to be a star in this league. Good size, a long wingspan, a shooters touch, and excellent court vision. His key asset, however, is something that goes unheralded, and that would be his unselfishness. He does what we in the business like to call the dirty work. His name will always show up on the stat sheet, but he rarely posts flashy numbers like 25 point games. He plays defense, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he draws charges, and he hustles hard. It’s that gritty, do whatever it takes mindset that can’t be taught, you either have it or you don’t. Nic has it.
There was a brief moment in time when Portland was not sure if Nic would even be returning to the Blazers, as the Timberwolves bent over backwards trying to acquire him as a free agent, but alas the mighty negotiating skills of Neil Olshey kept him in the rose city, and this season his impact has been felt in a big way. He has developed a reputation for being the man to feed Robin Lopez off of screens down low, resulting in what is arguably the most productive offensive season in Lopez’ career. Coach Terry Stotts clearly knows how to best utilize the 6’8 swingman, giving him the freedom to play a bit of an assist man role, rather than having him jack up long range shots every time he touches the ball.
It is easy to look at his play style and criticize him for not playing hard. He moves so smoothly, it almost looks sluggish, but being at a game and watching it on TV are two different things. From within the MODA center you can see that this man is anything but sluggish. He is the perfect complimentary piece to the Lillard/Aldridge two punch knock out. Somehow, it is easy for the defense to sleep on him, likely because he is great at choosing good shots rather than forcing multiple attempts.
At one point, there was a discussion about whether Batum was even worth his new contract. Now, it seems pretty clear that that is a ridiculous thing to ponder anymore. Batum is the truth, the star flying below the radar.