Aldridge’s absence brings out aggressive side of Batum

Batum has been a rebounding machine for Blazers

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



TUALATIN, Ore. — In the Blazers’ time without LaMarcus Aldridge, the notion of it being a blessing in disguise has been talked about frequently with regards to their bench, their defense and the elevated play of Damian Lillard.

It also had a positive effect on Blazers forward Nicolas Batum.

Batum is already well on his way to a career year on the glass, averaging 1.3 more rebounds per game than he did last season.

His last two games, he’s grabbed more than 15 rebounds in consecutive games for the first time in his six-year NBA career.

Batum is sometimes the target of the question: why isn’t he more aggressive?

Batum makes the game look easy. But while Aldridge was out, and even in his first two games back, Batum has been even more aggressive on the glass.

“I had to especially while LA was out,” Batum said. “Even if he’s back I can’t stop doing it. The game in Denver, it was really obvious: we need to take care of the ball. Twenty-seven offensive rebounds, we won the game, but that can’t happen.”

Over the last five games, Batum is averaging nearly 16.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. But, it’s been the defensive rebounding that coach Terry Stotts says the Blazers really need.

“Particularly the defensive boards, that is very important,” Stotts said. “Offensive rebounding has been an important part of our offense. I think that can go up or down depending on who we are playing. I think the fact that LA was out, everybody got the concept of gang rebounding and rebounding from the wing positions.”

“At the three (small forward), I have to help them on the boards,” Batum said. “Especially with the big games coming up on the road, especially with the playoffs coming. At the three, I have to help them on the boards. Get more 10-rebound double-doubles.”

On whether that type of work on the boards is here to stay, Batum says it has to.

“They (the team’s frontcourt players) won’t get 40 rebounds every night by themselves,” he said. “And we have to go after the ball. Me and Wes, we have to do that.”

It bears noting that Wesley Matthews is also averaging a career-high in rebounds at 3.9 rebounds per game.

Batum is 15th among small forwards in rebounds behind New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Miami’s LeBron James and Detroit’s Josh Smith.

Matthews is 11th among shooting guards in rebounds per game.

The Blazers have been an above-average defensive rebounding team But as tougher games and the playoffs approaching, they insist they need more.

“Particularly as you move on as the games get tougher, that’s an important thing,” Stotts said.