Before Nicolas Batum returned to Portland to begin training camp with the Blazers this season, his head coach in Nancy, France, Jean-Luc Monschau joked about Batum’s future in Portland.
“I hope he has a great future and when I retire, I will come to Portland to watch him…,” said Coach Monschau.
“…if they are able to keep him.”
Fans in Rip City likely didn’t find that last line from Coach Monschau very amusing, but they can rest assure that it’s not a matter of how long Batum remains with the Blazers, but to when a contract extension is finally reached between the 6-foot-8 small forward and Portland.
They Blazers recently took the first step, sending a Batum’s agent Bouna Ndiyae a formal letter of intent to begin contract extension talks starting around January 1 according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian.
“I spoke to Nic last week and told him that he doesn’t need to be worried about it,” Blazers interim GM Chad Buchanan said. “We’re going to take care of him. We have a large window to get something done. He just needs to go out and play and everything will work out.”
The key dates to keep it mind: Portland has until Jan. 25 to sign Batum to an extension. If an agreement is not reached, they’d have to wait until June 30, when Batum’s restricted free agent status would kick in.
Obviously, it’s going to come down to the numbers on the financial side of the contract and Ndiyae has already said as much. Yet on the Blazers side, there are contributing numbers to consider: Batum just turned 23-years-old and posted career stats last season averaging 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and1.5 assists per game, not to mention he’s coming off of a five-month NBA lockout period where Batum flourished with the French National team and in the French League and Euroleague with Nancy. There his game grew with Batum running the point-forward spot and today, the once shy kid who arrived to Portland via the 2008 NBA Draft now abounds with confidence.
“Nic has shown steady progress every single year he has been with us – something that we love when we evaluate a player. When we first saw him as a junior level player in Europe he was a guy who was so much longer and more fluid than his peers and this allowed him to make plays on both ends of the floor,” Buchanan told Crossover Chronicles.
“Early on with LeMans he tended to defer to his veteran teammates but as he matured and gained confidence he became more assertive and aggressive – much like we are seeing with him here in Portland over the last few seasons. “
The scary part is, Batum is only going to get better.
Blazers owner, Paul Allen, may profess he is finished with heavy spending but Batum must become the exception to the rule considering Portland has to re-solidify their franchise foundation with the recent early retirement of Brandon Roy and on-going health crises of Greg Oden. Yet even while playing for the French National team and in Nancy, Batum envisioned this season as a chance for the Blazers to become “his team”.
That was the case in Nancy, so why not Portland?
“Nic has always been a quiet personality but he is also a guy who is constantly thinking the game and evaluating how he fits into the team. We are very pleased with the development path he is on and expect him to continue to grow as a player and one day he could develop into more of a vocal leader,” Buchanan added.
Speaking up on and off the court is an area Batum knows he must grow in and certainly plans to, much like he did with Nancy. It came more naturally. Simply put, directing guys on the floor and speaking up in the locker room flowed like his game.
These days guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews will carry the torch forward for the Blazers.
Now it’s time to keep Batum home in Portland to help do the same.