Monday, January 30, 2012

Is It Time To Trade Nicolas Batum?

"I wanna play for YOU, Charlotte Bobcats."
Before we get started, a little background for you all.  If you were to go out with me to a local sports bar and sit with me while watching one of my favorite teams play, you would probably see glimpses of two distinct versions of my 'fanhood'. 

On the one hand, you would see the logical side of my fanhood, based in reason and in touch with the reality of the sports world.  This is the part of my fanhood that I call the "GM side", if you will.  On the other hand, you would see the 10 year old version of me that is not-so-based in logic and reason, and can be a bit of a poor sport too.  Because I can't think of anything better to call it, I call this side the "10 year old side".

When I was 9 years old, I cried (I'm not sure how much) after watching Magic Johnson and company come to town and beat the Blazers in game one of the 1991 Western Conference Finals.  With a simple steal and rolling of the ball down the court, Magic and the Lakers beat the Blazers and seemingly stunned "my team" so badly that they lost the series four games to two.  It crushed me.  Portland was supposed to win, in my mind.

Fast forward to 1999-00 season.  I was 18 years old.  Still, the "10 year old side" of me got so pissed off while watching Rasheed Wallace and the rest of the guys crap away an 18-point 4th quarter lead, that my own mother told me to leave the house, go somewhere and cool off for a bit, and come back when I was in a better mood.  And in 2007, while watching the Patriots get upset by the Giants (which I was sure had no chance in hell of happening), I turned off the TV with about 30 seconds left (I did not want to see the damn Giants celebrating for one second) in the game and pissed off all the people that were at my sister's Super Bowl party.  Not cool at all.  I told you, the 10 year old inside me can be a bit of a poor sport.

To this day, my wife and most of my family don't enjoy watching sporting events with me in which I have a clear rooting interest.  I can get a little intense.  Hey, I don't pretend to be perfect, folks.

So the reason that I even mention the two different sides of my fanhood is this.  When it comes to one of my favorite teams, such as the Blazers, everything that happens to them gets a reaction from each of these side of my fanhood.  It's something that I cannot help from happening.  I have no control over it most of the time.  Even when I'm trying to view something in a completely logical sense, the "10 year old side" peeks his head out every now and again and tries to mess me all up.

I don't know if anyone heard about it, but last Wednesday night, the Blazers and Nicolas Batum failed to reach a new contract extension.  I heard the news, but didn't get too worked up about it.  After all, it didn't mean that Batum was a goner for sure or anything.  Once the season was over, Batum could play the market and if and when he received an offer, Portland could choose to match it and keep him on the team.  And everything would be happily ever after.

The "GM side" of me is totally fine with this playing out for the rest of the season, and coming to a resolution then.  It's a perfectly logical move on the team's part.  This is obviously what the Blazers felt was the best option as well, considering Batum and his agent didn't accept the offer that Portland made.  Up until recently, the "10 year old side" of me has really liked Nic Batum and felt that he was an essential part to the building of the Portland Trailblazers for many, many championships to come.  I liked Nic Batum and wanted anything but to see him traded away.  The "10 year old side" hates seeing his favorite players traded away.

But recently, the "10 year old side" of me has changed his opinion just a little bit.  And who is to thank for that, you wonder?  Well that would be one Bouna Ndiaye, who is Batum's agent. 

When the deadline passed for the Blazers to extend Batum's contract, his agent took some pretty thinly-veiled shots at the Blazers brass.  He made it a point to say, among other things, that they would negotiate "with all other 29 NBA teams" before giving the Blazers another shot.  And this is exactly what he should do.  I don't have a problem with this tactic in the least!  It's just that the dude doesn't have to be a punk about it.

So after battling with the GM side of me and the 10 year old side of me, I think that it's finally time to trade Nicolas Batum away.  And soon, because I think Portland is going to lose him for nothing if he walks at the end of the season.

Without going into major statistical analysis of Batum's game, it's no secret that Batum hasn't (yet) developed into what Portland fans have been hoping for.  For all the player that he is, he can be wildly inconsistent.  Portland fans have seen a lot of that part of Batum's game this season so far to say the least.

I wrote in a post at the end of last season and made the point that it seemed like we were all waiting for Nic Batum to grow into a younger Gerald Wallace for the Blazers, a player who could do a little bit of everything on the court.  I also mentioned in that post that it was the perfect time to send Batum away via trade.  The reason?  The Blazers had the real Gerald Wallace on the team! 

I'm not going to get all Bill Simmons-y on you, because frankly I can't.  I don't know enough about each individual players contracts to know who the Blazers could successfully flip Batum for.  But I would say package Batum and Raymond Felton and see what kind of point guard is available out there.

Maybe it's all Greg Oden's fault, but as a fan, I'm sick of waiting for all these players that the Blazers fall in love with to reach their potential, while a ton of other teams in the NBA are currently playing at their potential.  Nicolas Batum is probably a really nice kid, but his feeling are hurt and the chances are pretty high that some other team will be ready and able to give him the dollar figure that he wants after this season is over.

That would work out just fine for the GM side of me.  Now, after what his agent said about the Blazers this past week, the 10 year old side of me wants Portland to ship Batum's ass to Charlotte or Detroit and see how he likes it out there in NBA purgatory and playing for nothing.

At least he'll have his big, shiny, new contract though, right?