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Batum says he's happy in Portland

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Back with the Trail Blazers, Nicolas Batum says he is looking forward to the NBA season.Nicolas Batum’s summer was eventful. And that is putting it mildly.

There was a rough contract negotiation with the Trail Blazers, the Summer Olympics and the infamy that came from being on the delivering end of a crotch punch at the London Games.

On the eve of training camp, the 6-8 small forward said Monday that he is excited to get back to NBA.

Batum is coming off his best season. He averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in 2011-12. He was able to parlay that performance into a new $45 million contract.

The road to re-signing with Portland went back and forth, he said, between himself, his agent, the Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“The contact situation, that was weird,” Batum said. “It was like a game — a business game.”

Batum admitted he was worried about how he would be viewed by Blazers fans, who might not have been happy about the course of the negotiations. Batum said he has started to feel more confident that the fans will be understanding.

“I was (worried) because when I went through those two weeks in July, that was a little bit crazy,” he said. “But I know that they (the fans) know the game. They know the situation.

“Some people don’t trust me, but I’m happy to be back. The first thing I did when I came back two months ago was I bought a house right away. If I didn’t want to be back, I wouldn’t buy a house. I was looking for a home before the free agency opened.

"My girlfriend is the same, she loves to be here. And my family, when they come over here, they love to be here. I love to be a Blazer. I love the city. I’m just happy to be back here.”

Batum said he doen't feel any added pressure to play well because he has a bigger contract.

“I’m not scared about it,” he said. “I won’t change anything or put more pressure on myself. I know people are expecting more things from me. But I just want to be on the court and play and win games and be the best that I can be.”

Soon after the contract negotiations, Batum began playing for France in the Summer Olympics.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “To play for your country and be with all the athletes from France, I was very proud.”

But the Olympics also brought about the low point of the 23-year-old's career.

During a game against Spain, Batum became frustrated at Juan Carlos Navarro for flopping. Eventually, Batum lost control. When Navarro received a pass in the backcourt, Batum unloaded a vicious and clearly deliberate punch to the Spaniard’s crotch.

After the game, Batum told reporters: “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.”

Now, Batum speaks of the incident with regret.

“It happened, I can’t go back,” he said. “What I was mad about was what I showed about the game, about France, about myself, especially to young kids who were watching the game. That’s not me. You know me. That’s not me. But sometimes, you just lose it. I’m humanm and I lost it in that game, and that’s what’s frustrating. I was mad for different reasons, and I won’t do it again.”