Sixth Man (cont.)
He lost his composure while punching Spanish captain Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin at the Olympics last summer. France was outscored 12-2 in the final seven minutes of its 66-59 loss when Batum attempted to punch at the ball -- and missed badly.
"That was a tough moment for me," Batum said. "Because people who know me know that's not me. It surprised even me.
"We wanted so bad to do something great in the Olympics. We work hard to go there and to be so close to beating Spain -- we had the lead all the game, and then I just lost it. I don't think it's good. What I have done is really bad. It's really bad and what I show about basketball, what I show about myself, what I show about France, what I show to young people watching the game -- that's bad. So I apologize. It's a bad thing. I'm human, yeah, but it's something I don't want to do again, for sure.''
Was it his father coming out in him? "Maybe. Maybe. People have told me some stories, but he wasn't like that. He was a fighter but not like that.''
If nothing else, the incident showed the depth of Batum's passion. "Yeah, because I don't show emotion sometimes," he said. "That's why Mike Rice, the [Blazers'] broadcaster, told me that I can be the best poker player ever because I don't show emotion. But I did show more fire more emotion on the court that time.''
"I had to become a better person, a better player, a better father, a better friend, a better mentor and a better leader. I've changed, and I think people have started to understand who I really am."
--LeBron James, the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, discussing his evolution.
This comes from Lee Jenkins's terrific cover story that explains and celebrates James as SI's Sportsman of the Year. James has been fated to win this award since he became a household name in high school, and at the same time it's amazing that he won it after "The Decision" of 2010. This is the best story you're ever going to read about him.
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, 7 p.m ET. The Atlantic Division rivals -- who went seven games in the second round last season -- meet Friday night and then Saturday for a next-day rematch in Boston. An NBA scout breaks down the matchup.
"The Celtics are dealing with two big issues," the scout said. "They're waiting for Avery Bradley to come back [he's expected to return later this month after undergoing surgery on both shoulders]. They need him because they don't have a backup point guard. Instead of signing Leandro Barbosa, I was surprised they didn't go for a guy like Jannero Pargo, who at least can handle the point. If [coach] Doc Rivers and [GM] Danny Ainge were being totally honest, I think they would admit they miscalculated on that one. There are nights when Rajon Rondo gives them 42 to 46 minutes, but there are other nights when they need to give him 10 minutes of rest -- and that's a lot of minutes to fill when you don't have a true point guard to run your team. Teams have been taking advantage of that when Rondo has been on the bench.
"The other issue is Jeff Green. When he was playing great in the preseason, it was huge for them that he was carrying their second unit. The Celtics are trying to take pressure off Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but to do that they need their bench to be great. Green was supposed to be great and he hasn't been so far. But I do think he'll get better over the course of the year, and the Celtics will be a stronger team in the postseason than they'll show during the regular season.
"There's no doubt that the 76ers are less talented than last season. They lost their best player in Andre Iguodala, their leading scorer in Lou Williams and they were supposed to replace them with Andrew Bynum, who hasn't played. Now their bench is an issue. If Bynum were starting, then Thaddeus Young would be coming off the bench the way he did last year, when they had the best bench in the league with Young and Williams.
"The uncertainty over Bynum has to be affecting them, absolutely. They went into the season saying he's the centerpiece, and they've been constantly waiting for him to show up. They added shooting to space the floor around him with Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright and Nick Young, but the guy they're supposed to be surrounding isn't there. That's why I've been surprised by how well they're playing, because they're playing the same kind of style as last year but with less talent.
"The Celtics will go into these games against Philly trying to establish Garnett, which is what they want to do against everybody. Last year in the playoffs, I thought that was the best he'd played in the last three years. But this year he hasn't been as good as I thought he'd be, which makes me wonder if last year was his last hurrah. Look, he's still good -- every team would love to have him. But I think the way to deal with him is to play him straight up rather than double-team him, because he's a better passer than he is a scorer.
"The other guy who isn't playing at the same level as last year is Brandon Bass.
"Because the Sixers don't have a go-to scorer, you're going to see them going at the Celtics' worst defender. Right now, that means they'll be attacking Jason Terry, Pierce and Bass. They'll be trying to drive it inside, which they always do, and they'll be pounding the offensive glass, which is what every team does against Boston.
"One way or another these teams will split these two games. It's just hard to beat a team back-to-back. It's all psychological -- you beat a team and you relax, while they get more fired up. You see it all the time in pro sports and you'll see it here."
In honor of the No. 57 pick of the 1999 draft who has won three championships with the Spurs on his way (someday) to the Hall of Fame, we look at the best draft steals. The lessons from this list of active second-round selections: Gamble on foreigners, upper-class big men and young wings.
C Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (No. 48 in 2007) -- Arrived in Memphis after controversial trade for brother Pau.
F Carlos Boozer, Bulls (No. 34 in 2002) -- Two-time All-Star still averaging close to a double-double.
F Paul Millsap, Jazz (No. 47 in 2006) -- Has expanded his game to become one of NBA's most versatile forwards.
G Monta Ellis, Bucks (No. 40 in 2005) -- Career 19.5-point scorer but has made only one playoff appearance.
G Mo Williams, Jazz (No. 47 in 2003) -- His scoring from the point has upgraded Utah's backcourt.
C Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers (No. 30 in 2004) -- Averaging 15 points and league-leading 15.4 rebounds.
F Luis Scola, Suns (No. 55 in 2002) -- One of the NBA's most reliable high-energy producers.
F Stephen Jackson, Spurs (No. 43 in 1997) -- Helped San Antonio win the 2002-03 championship.
F: Rashard Lewis, Heat (No. 32 in 1998) -- Two-time All-Star hoping to renew career with a championship in Miami
G Lou Williams, Hawks (No. 45 in 2005) -- Combo guard has become one of the NBA's top sixth men.
G Goran Dragic, Suns (No. 45 in 2008) -- Nash's replacement is averaging 15.5 points and 6.6 assists.
G Mario Chalmers, Heat (No. 34 in 2008) -- Underrated point guard helped Miami win championship last year
Ducks fend off Blackhawks for shootout victory
Hurricanes stage surprising rally against Sharks