Batum ready for fresh start
Soon as Nicolas Batum learned he’d been traded to Charlotte, he called fellow Frenchman Boris Diaw for the low-down.
Diaw told Batum where to go and where to eat . So Friday at Batum’s introductory news conference, someone asked Batum if he’d start riding around on a Segway as Diaw did.
“Yes!” Batum joked. “I think I’m going to do the very same thing.”
OK, now we know new Hornet Batum is playful. Hornets coach Steve Clifford thinks can be a lot more than that, a lot more than he was as a Portland Trail Blazer.
Clifford told Batum this trade will expand his role. He’s no longer playing with stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, standing in the corner waiting to take a 3-pointer.
Batum, by his own description, is coming off a bad season. He had a wrist injury and shot 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range, the worst such statistics of his seven-season NBA career.
Batum says he was ready for a change. He seems delighted to get a fresh start with the Hornets.
“I know my role is going to be different and I like that,” Batum said. “I know I can do a lot of things on the court; I’m a very versatile player. So me and Kemba (Walker) can do great things together.”
Clifford has major plans. He envisions the 6-foot-8 Batum, who will start at shooting guard, as a primary scoring option next season. Clifford imagines running offense through Batum similarly to how the Orlando Magic did with small forward Hedo Turkoglu when Clifford was an assistant there.
The Hornets gave up a lot for Batum, sending shooting guard Gerald Henderson and power forward Noah Vonleh to Portland Wednesday night. But with the NBA’s worst 3-point percentage last season (31.8 percent) and the failed Lance Stephenson experiment over, the Hornets had to do something dramatic.
“I was very excited when I heard Charlotte was interested in me. I felt like I could take this in another direction,” Batum said. “This is going to be a good, good team. Jeremy (Lamb) is a good player. We’ve got Kemba and Big Al (Jefferson) already. And Frank (Kaminsky) was the best player in all of college.”
Batum believes the Hornets will be back in the playoffs next spring and his play will be a big factor in whether that happens. That’s not just about his career 36 percent 3-point shooting. He says he’s good for five assists and six rebounds per game here and he prides himself in being able to guard every position but center.
“Back in the day (against the Dallas Mavericks) I guarded Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd in the same game. Jason Terry, too,” Batum said.
Batum’s development in basketball was quite different than it would have been had he grown up in the United States. At 15 he was essentially an apprentice pro, practicing against adults every day. He signed with a French team at 17 and was drafted into the NBA at 19.
Batum was recruited by Georgia Tech and Arizona, but decided he was better off in Europe playing against the pros.
“When I was 19 I wasn’t afraid of older guys because I’d gone through it. That’s why at 19 I started 77 games” as a Portland rookie, Batum said.
“When you’re a young guy in college there’s an adjustment (to the NBA) because you’ve never played with grown men. I’d made that adjustment two or three years earlier. So that first training camp, when (veterans) would hit me, I knew what to do.”
Now, changing teams for the first time in the NBA, Batum again knows what to do.
“I’m easy. I’m coachable,” Batum said. “I’m able to adjust.”