Chris Kroeger, the new voice of Charlotte Hornets radio, hosted Charlotte Hornets small forward, Nicolas Batum on his podcast, “Courtside Seats with Kroeger” Monday afternoon. Kroeger and Batum touched on some very interesting topics including Batum’s previous rough season, Malik Monk, the Hornets new coaching staff, and much more. It was a fantastic listen and I highly recommend it. However, if you don’t have an hour in your day to listen, then I’m here to break all of it down for you!
Ep. 1⃣3⃣ of Courtside Seats is out! @nicolas88batum opens up about why his heritage is so important, how @RepYourWork made an immediate impact and what @tonyparker did to prove he's in the QC to win.— Chris Kroeger (@Kroeger) September 4, 2018
: https://t.co/ZxdRolMbWV@Hornets | #BuzzCity pic.twitter.com/pQsdH0HM6c
Batum is a player that almost every Charlotte fan has their eye on going into the 2018 season. How is he going to perform this year moving back to small forward? Are his best days behind him? Is he worth all of the money that Charlotte signed once him for? Batum is more than determined to prove all of his doubters wrong. He has more than accepted that last season was without a doubt the worst year of his career. He spent a good portion at the conclusion of the year wondering why that was? What exactly happened this year that could have throw him off this much?
Hornets fans will be happy to hear that he claims he identified the problem to his down year. According to Batum, wasn’t fully fit and in the rotation until a couple months into the season, and obviously he never quite caught his stride. Batum says his 2017 offseason is the source of his troubles.
Following the 2017 season, he skipped out on playing for the French National Team in the summer for the first time in his career, which is actually remarkable in its own right. Batum says this really threw him off because he had way too much free time on his hands. He was able to actually sit down, relax, and vacation with his family for once. It gave him time to spend with his newborn child. It was the one summer where he had no direct focus on basketball.
After not playing in the summer, and then hurting his elbow in preseason, Batum had no training camp, no pre-season, and missed the first two months of the season. He claims this stretch is the longest he has ever gone without playing basketball. If this is true, then I think we can definitely understand where his shaky season came from.
After realizing this, Batum says he has been hitting the gym harder than ever before this summer. While in Paris, Hornets new assistant coach Jay Hernandez flew out to meet Batum to train with him for a few weeks. Batum says he told Hernandez after their first morning practice that he wanted to meet again for a evening practice, and Hernandez thought he was nuts. Very rarely do vets at his age want to partake in two-a-days in the summer and also hit the gym. He’s determined.
Batum praised Hernandez because never before has a coach done that for him. He also claims that Hernandez could sign a 10-day contract and compete in the league if he wanted to because he’s that good. Hernandez was also in Spain to train with Willy Hernangomez after visiting Batum. All credit to head coach James Borrego for finding staff willing to do this.
Kroeger brought up the reasoning why Batum received the contract he got, the same one that many Hornets fans, including myself, question. His first two seasons with the Hornets, Batum averaged 15 points six assists and five rebounds. To the average fan glazing over this article, that looks okay. It’s probably not worth $100 million, but you would be glad to have it on your team. Little do we know, Batum is one of four players to average that statline during that time frame. The other three being Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James -- three players all with an MVP award to their names. Batum jokes about it and says how they did it averaging around 30-10-10 but the point is that it’s not easy, and pulling off that statline can be extremely valuable to a team. Batum also happens to be the 2nd player in NBA history, the other being Dr. J, to have a 5x5 game (at least 5 stats in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals) that included at least 10 assists or more.
Batum goes on to tell Kroeger that everyone has this notion that he’s a scorer, and he says he has never in life been a score first player. His goal when he plays is to impact other players around him. He says how he once won the European Championship MVP award when he was 18 years old averaging 13 points per game.
He says this is a big reason why players want to play with him. He tells a story about how former Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy pretty much requested that Batum be placed in the starting lineup just three games into Batum’s rookie season because he was that impactful. When he first arrived to Charlotte he met with former head coach Steve Clifford, he told him to allow him to play more of a two-guard role with Kemba Walker so that Walker could play off the ball. After doing that with Roy and Damian Lillard successfully, he figured it would transition well to Charlotte, and he was right.
Batum couldn’t be more ready to get this season started, he’s in the right place mentally and physically. He loves the coaching staff that has been put in place, and his best bud Tony Parker is now on the team. Batum claims that Parker is the perfect veteran addition to this team. Apparently, we can thank Batum for the addition of Parker. He says he met with Borrego, who also coached Parker, and told him that he thought Charlotte had a chance to sign him.
His leadership is already showing among the group. During a practice, Batum made a bad pass and Parker absolutely ripped him for it. Guard Malik Monk told Batum afterwards, “We need that.” Batum is excited about what Parker can show the younger guys like Monk, Devonte’ Graham and even Walker.
He highlighted Monk more, stating that he’s almost glad that he had the rookie season that he did. Sometimes people need to be woken up by some sort of struggle, and that during the end of the season Monk “got it.” Monk has apparently only taken one week off since the season ended. Batum has told Monk that he reminds him exactly of his former Portland teammate C.J, McCollum, something that literally every Hornets fan has said at some point in time this year. Batum thinks he can be just as good as C.J,, if not better.
All in all, Batum is more than ready to prove his doubters wrong this season, and as a Hornets fans, we should all stand behind him and root for him during this process. For Batum’s play could very well be what decides if we make the playoffs or not this season.
Allez Les Bleus.