Trail Mix: Batum to play for France in summer, Blazers title chances

(AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

(AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

The Portland Trail Blazers are back on the floor tonight and are playing their first home game since losing Wesley Matthews for the season. Obviously, the injury has led a lot of national voices to weigh in on its impact.

But first, some news for the offseason.

Nicolas Batum, who has been revived after the All-Star break, told the Oregonian’s Joe Freeman that he will play for the French national team this summer. Freeman also writes that Batum is keenly aware of what Blazers fans and commentators will say about Batum playing after openly being worn out earlier this season.

Yes, Nicolas Batum knows all of that.

But he also knows his country needs him.

So Batum has decided to play for the French National Team this summer, when it will try to defend its EuroBasket Championship on native soil in August. The move will be surprising to some, considering the Blazers’ small forward acknowledged last month that he has felt “fatigue” this NBA season, in part, because he overextended himself last summer. But, despite this fatigue — which no doubt led to his subpar season — there was never really a doubt that Batum would play internationally in 2015.

“I have to fight for my country,” he said

There’s a lot more good stuff from Batum in the piece.

Among many national voices to debate what the Matthews injury did was of course Grantland’s duo of Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe on The B.S. Report. If you are a Blazers fan and don’t want to be bummed out, then avoid when they start talking about the Blazers at the 17:18 mark.

Simmons called Matthews Portland’s second-best player and Lowe raised concerns about the fit of Arron Afflalo.

However, there have been some other perspectives that the Blazers are not yet done.

Ian Thomson of wrote that all contenders are dealing with key injuries and that this, above all, is LaMarcus Aldridge’s opportunity to step up in his chase for a title.

The Blazers are not out of championship contention, not this year. Cleveland is still hoping to win without defensive leader Anderson Varejaowhose loss earlier this season created more harm than the absence of Matthews. The Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs have remained on track in spite of injuries. The Dallas Mavericks won their 2010-11 championship after Caron Butler, their second-leading scorer, was sidelined by a torn knee in midseason. Stotts was an assistant coach on their staff that year. He saw how it was done.

Every team in contention this season has at least one major issue to overcome. The champion, whoever it turns out to be, will have overcome a major flaw. So it is not about the flaw; it is about the will to overcome it, to find another way.

When the Mavericks won, it was their best player, Nowitzki, who played the most influential basketball of his Hall of Fame career.

That is the challenge now for Aldridge. This is his opportunity.

Over the weekend, the Oregonian’s Mike Richman wrote about the 2011 Mavericks loss of Butler.

Butler was 30 when he was injured. He was two years removed from two All-Star seasons in Washington, but still an important part of the Mavericks veteran group that had serious title hopes.

“He was a starter, a big part of what we were,” Stotts recalled of Butler on Saturday. “We struggled a little bit, but obviously we won a championship.”

The Mavericks were 25-8 when Butler was injured, but lost seven of their next ten games, including a six-game winless streak.

After the losing skid, which dropped Dallas to 28-15, the Mavericks found a groove. They won 29 of their final 39 games and earned the third seed in the West playoffs.

I also wrote about the Matthews injury for ESPN’s True Hoop blog.

We also covered how CJ McCollum’s role will expand in light of Matthews injury in Wednesday’s Columbian.

In some news that will impact the Blazers and every team in the league down the road, the league announced that the NBA Players Association has rejected the league’s “smoothing” proposal. The proposal would have prevented a large jump in the cap in the summer of 2016 when the league’s television deal kicks in.

“The National Basketball Players Association has informed the NBA that it will not agree to ‘smoothing’ in the increases in the Salary Cap that will result from the new national media agreements beginning in the 2016-17 season,” a league spokesman said.

“Smoothing would have avoided a substantial Salary Cap spike in 2016-17.  Under the league’s smoothing approach, the salary shortfall resulting from more gradual Cap increases would have been paid directly to the Players Association for distribution to all players, and thus the total compensation paid to players in any given season would not have been impacted.”

Also, the yearly Nike Hoop Summit is coming to Portland and they’ve just released the roster with the World team featuring prospects Ben Simmons and Thon Maker.

  Nedim Buza               F        6-8      KK Spars Sarajevo                               Bosnia & Herzegovina

Cheick Diallo             F        6-9      Our Savior New American H.S., NY   Mali

Skal Labissiere         F/C      6-11     RYD Prep, TN/*Kentucky                   Haiti

Thon Maker                F        7-0      Orangeville Prep, Ontario                     Australia

Jamal Murray             G        6-5      Orangeville Prep                                   Canada

Federico Mussini       G        6-3      Reggio Emilia                                       Italy

George de Paula        G        6-3      Pinheiros                                               Brazil

Stefan Peno               G        6-5      FC Barcelona                                        Serbia

Zhou Qi                    F/C       7-2      Xinjiang Flying Tigers                          China

Ben Simmons             F        6-9      Montverde Academy, FL/*LSU          Australia

Tai Wynyard              C       6-10     Rangitoto College/*Kentucky              New Zealand


Head coach: Roy Rana, Canada

Assistant coach: Marin Sedlacek, Serbia




Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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