Batum living up to contract with Portland
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
When Nicolas Batum signed a four-year, $46.1 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers before this season, the team’s expectations went up. And, so did his own.
“I’m excited about this challenge because they really trust in me and showed they believed in me,” Batum told USA TODAY Sports. “Last year when I was a free agent, I wanted to sign with a team where I had more responsibilities than a role player.
“I wanted to be on a team where I can make more plays. When I got the offer sheet from Minnesota and Portland matched, I knew I was that kind of player and I was OK with that.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts knew Portland needed more from Batum now that he vaulted to the team’s second option behind forward LaMarcus Aldridge. But, Stotts realizes it needs to come in increments.
“A lot of times when players sign a new contract, they expect an immediate jump,” Stotts said. “The truth is, he’s 24 and what I told him was I wanted to help him expand his game, particularly offensively, so he can be a facilitator, a pick-and-roll player, a post-up player, a consummate all-around player rather than just being a catch-and-shoot player.
“He’s still developing that. It’s wrong for people to expect that that’s going to change overnight just because he signed a contract.”
The progress is evident in certain areas of Batum’s game – a career-high in minutes (38.2 per game), points (16.1), rebounds (5.7), assists (4.3), steals (1.6) and blocks (1.2). Capable of contributing in a variety of ways on both ends of the court, Batum has developed into Portland’s most versatile player. As a defender, he can guard multiple perimeter positions. He is becoming the player he wants to be.
This season, he is one of five players in the league averaging at … [For more on Nicolas Batum living up to contract with Portland, click here.]