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Southeast Notes: Wall, Magic, Batum, Hornets

John Wall was feeling like his old self again before the NBA’s hiatus forced him to curtail his workouts, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The five-time All-Star, who has missed the entire season after a ruptured Achilles and surgery to remove a bone spur, was playing three-on-three games with teammates during the Wizards‘ last road trip before the shutdown.

“I was out there dunking, crossing over, getting to the rim, doing stuff I was doing before. And I was like, damn, I still got, like, 15 pounds to get off of before I start playing next season. And I’m like, OK, I got six or seven months to get better,” Wall said. “So, I was gonna do nothing but get stronger, get more rhythm, get more in sync with everything.”

Wall has a gym in his Miami home, but he has been limited to half-court workouts with no competition. He won’t take the court when Washington resumes the season in Orlando, but said the discomfort he used to feel every day is gone. The focus all year has been getting ready for next season.

“When I get back to getting on the court when things open up, I’m not rushing anything,” Wall said. “I’m easing my way into it, because I know I can’t just jump back out there. That’s how you end up getting yourself hurt. … It’s gonna take me time to be patient with it. It’s frustrating because you already got a rhythm. You already was like — I was having fun. I was in a rhythm, having fun. It was just dope to be hooping.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • A pair of games with the Nets will go a long way toward determining whether the Magic can overtake Brooklyn for the seventh seed and avoid a daunting first-round match-up with Milwaukee, observes Josh Robbins of The Athletic“I think what’s going to help us the most is just being in better shape than the guys we’re going to play against,” Evan Fournier said. “I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. How fast can you get in shape? And how fast can you get together as a team? That’s what’s going to make the difference.”
  • The Hornets will be one of the few teams with cap space this offseason, but GM Mitch Kupchak doesn’t plan to make a major move in free agency until next year, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. That means Nicolas Batum will likely finish out his contract in Charlotte unless Kupchak can find a way to trade him without taking back any future guaranteed money.
  • Even though Devonte’ Graham had a breakthrough season and Terry Rozier is under contract for two more years, the Hornets won’t hesitate to take another point guard in a draft that is loaded with them, Bonnell adds in the same piece.

Batum, DeRozan Among Players With Earlier Option Decision Deadlines

Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.

The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:

The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.

Nicolas Batum Apologizes To Hornets

Nicolas Batum isn’t hiding from the fact that he hasn’t lived up to his contract, writes Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer.

The five-year, $120MM deal Batum signed in the summer of 2016 remains the largest ever given out by the Hornets. After putting up decent numbers during the past three years, he lost his starting job this season and has been stuck on the end of the bench as Charlotte opted for a youth movement.

“I apologize to the people here,” he said, “because they put so much faith in me. And it didn’t go well… . It didn’t work out. But what do I have to do? Because I’m still here.”

Batum has appeared in 22 games this season, but head coach James Borrego didn’t use him at all in February. The last time he saw the court was in a January 24 game played in his native France.

Fowler points out that Batum remains a supportive member of the team and is serving as a mentor to a roster filled with first- and second-year players. As a veteran, he has interceded with officials on behalf of his teammates and estimates he has saved the Hornets from about a half-dozen technical fouls.

“I don’t want to be selfish,” Batum said. “… I don’t want to be that guy who’s like, ‘OK, let’s go out tonight. Coach sucks. Don’t show up. You shoot 25 times a game; don’t listen to him.’ No. I won’t do that. I don’t need that. They don’t need that.”

At age 31, Batum figures to remain in a teaching role through the end of next season. He has another year left on his contract, and his $27.13MM salary makes him nearly impossible to trade. Although the Hornets appear headed to their fourth straight year out of the playoffs, Batum believes the young core will get there soon.

“This franchise has got a bright future,” he said, “but I don’t think I’ll be part of it.”

Hornets Notes: Drummond, Draft, Batum

The Pistons‘ asking price for Andre Drummond would have to be pretty low for the Hornets to trade for the center, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer contends. The scribe believes that Charlotte shouldn’t part with young players or serious draft capital to acquire Drummond in part, because of the risk that he would just leave next summer in free agency.

Here’s more from Charlotte:

  • In the same piece, Bonnell argues that the Hornets shouldn’t worry about tanking or making strategic moves to secure a better chance at a high pick in the lottery. Charlotte has several young pieces and it’s more important to develop them — if the team wins a few more games as a result, so be it.
  • Nicolas Batum has a massive contract ($25.5MM this season) and surely, it’s player-friendly but that doesn’t mean the wing doesn’t have value to the Hornets, Bonnell writes in a separate piece. Teammate Marvin Williams believes Batum is the most versatile player on the roster. “On both ends he has always brought a calm and a steadiness to our team, as long as he has been here,” Williams said. “He is so reliable at making plays other guys just can’t make.”
  • Batum’s deal has two seasons left on it and it’s unlikely that the Hornets trade him before the contract expires, Bonnell adds in that same piece. The wing will make $27.1MM next season, assuming he picks up his player option.

Hornets Notes: Graham, Rozier, Batum

As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has talked in recent months about the team’s top priority being retaining young talent, rather than going out and signing veteran free agents. In the early going this season, second-year point guard Devonte’ Graham has emerged as the sort of player worth investing in, with averages of 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG through 11 games.

If the Hornets do want to lock up Graham, they’ll have to wait to do so, writes Bonnell. Non-rookie-scale contracts can’t be extended until at least two years after they were signed, so Graham won’t become extension-eligible until next July, when he enters the final year of his current deal.

At that time, the Hornets would be able to offer him a four-year extension with a starting salary worth up to 120% of the NBA’s estimated average salary. A similar extension going into effect in 2020/21 would be worth approximately $51.4MM over four years, but that figure will be a little higher in 2021/22. It will be interesting to see over the course of this season whether Graham continues to prove he’s worth that sort of commitment.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Graham’s early-season success has overshadowed Terry Rozier‘s first few weeks as a Hornet, but the team’s big offseason acquisition had his best game on Wednesday, matching his career high with 33 points. In a separate article for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell takes a look at how Rozier can help the Hornets, and how the team might best utilize him and Graham together.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Observer, Bonnell tackles a handful of Hornets-related topics, exploring Dwayne Bacon‘s slow start, whether Charlotte should pursue a third point guard, and whether it was ultimately in the franchise’s best interests to move on from Kemba Walker.
  • Veteran forward Nicolas Batum, who has been out since opening night with a broken finger, fully participated in practice today and told reporters that he hopes to return on the Hornets’ upcoming four-game road trip (Twitter link). That trip begins on Saturday in New York and ends next Friday in Washington.

Southeast Notes: Young, Heat, Batum, Fournier

Hawks star Trae Young overcame several non-believers in his path to the NBA, proving doubters wrong while using their comments as motivation, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes. 

Young, 21, has quickly turned into one of the league’s most electric point guards. He’s averaged 26.6 points and 8.8 assists in 11 games for the Hawks this season, having being drafted fifth overall in 2018. The memories of his doubters still remain firmly in his mind.

“Yeah, it’s little stuff like that,” Young said. “I have pictures and stuff like that. Old tweets. Old different sayings and quotes from people who said things when I was coming into the draft, coming into college too. It’s stuff I just keep it in my mind. Some of it is mental notes, but at the same time some of it is stuff that I keep and I have my eye on. …But I think that type of stuff motivates you.”

Young, according to Amick, has a second phone filled with screenshots of those who doubted him. The phone itself isn’t attached to an actual line, but it’s something he’ll always have for motivation during his career.

“I’ve probably changed my phone twice, but I still have that same phone with all my pictures and all that stuff,” he said. “I’ll always have that phone, until I’m retired. And then, when I’m retired, I’ll go to the ocean somewhere and throw it in the water.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat have reached their development quota. Miami has several intriguing young players on its roster this season, including Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn.
  • Hornets forward Nicolas Batum returned on Saturday against the Knicks after missing nearly four weeks with a fractured left middle finger. Batum, 30, finished with three points, nine rebounds and six assists in 29 minutes of work, registering a positive-18 net rating.
  • Evan Fournier‘s renewed rhythm is leading the Magic to offensive improvement, writes John Denton of NBA.com. Orlando has won two straight games after a poor start to the season, though the team has yet to win a game on the road (0-4). Fournier has averaged 16.2 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 43% shooting from 3-point range.

Spurs Eyeing Nicolas Batum

Nicolas Batum will become a restricted free agent at season's end, and it's not clear yet how the Trail Blazers will value him, since the team could have a new general manager in place in a matter of weeks. However, one team that figures to make a "hard push" for Batum is the Spurs, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com.

When Batum entered the league in 2008, he expected to be drafted by the Spurs and was "confused" when he was selected by the Rockets, who traded him to Portland. Batum is close friends and international teammates with Tony Parker and would love to play in Gregg Popovich's system, says Haynes.

Since Batum will be a restricted free agent, the Blazers will have the option of matching any offer sheet the 23-year-old signs. Team president Larry Miller has said the plan is to retain Batum, as long as another club doesn't make him a "crazy" offer. While we don't know how high Portland would be willing to go to keep its starting small forward, the team will have plenty of cap space this summer. Haynes hears from league executives that Batum could command as much as $10-11MM per season.

Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors examined Batum's free agent stock last night.

Hornets Acquire Nicolas Batum

8:09pm: The trade is official, the Blazers announced. “Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success,” said Blazers executive Neil Olshey. “He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future.”

6:08 pm: The Blazers and Hornets are finalizing a deal that would send Nicolas Batum to Charlotte in exchange for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link). The Yahoo! scribe had reported earlier today that the Hornets were seeking to acquire a wing player in advance of the NBA Draft, but Wojnarowski had relayed that the team was aggressively shopping big man Cody Zeller.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Batum, 26, certainly can be considered an upgrade for Charlotte, despite him coming off a subpar 2014/15 campaign. He appeared in 71 contests for the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. His career numbers are 11.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 4.8 APG, with a slash line of .446/.363/.834. Batum is set to earn $12,235,750 for the 2015/16 season, and that amount is fully guaranteed.

It’s a bit of a surprise that the Hornets would deal away Vonleh, the team’s lottery selection of a year ago. The 19-year-old only appeared in 25 contests for the Hornets after getting off to late start due to a preseason sports hernia injury. The immediate conclusion would be that Vonleh was acquired by the Blazers to protect themselves in the event that unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge departs this offseason, but the deal was made with Aldridge’s knowledge, and was done independently of his free agent decision, Wojnarowski tweets. Vonleh averaged 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 10.4 minutes per contest this past season, and is set to earn $2,637,720 in 2015/16.

Henderson, 27, recently picked up his $6MM player option for next season, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He appeared in 80 games for Charlotte during the 2014/15 campaign, and averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 28.9 minutes per contest. His shooting numbers last season were .437/.331/.848.

And-Ones: Batum, Mavs, Celtics

Although he was initially shocked by the June trade that sent him from the Blazers to the Hornets, Nicolas Batum said he has embraced his new role with his new team and doesn’t harbor any ill will toward Portland, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com details. Batum, who was with Portland for seven seasons, scored 33 points Sunday in the Hornets’ win against the Blazers. “Why should I be angry? It wasn’t an anger game,” Batum said. “I respect them so much. They gave me my chance, when I was a rookie, 19 years old. They trade me because they think it’s the right thing to do, and I understand that. So now, I move on.’’

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Dwight Powell and Raymond Felton were both “throw-ins” who helped the Mavs acquire Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler in respective deals, but it’s Powell and Felton who are still with Dallas and playing as if they were the cornerstones of the trades, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News opines. Felton has started several games this season and Powell is averaging 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, Sefko adds.
  • The Celtics have moved rookies Terry Rozier and Jordan Mickey along with 2014 first-rounder James Young back and forth from the D-League as a way to get the young players more experience, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe examines. The assignments should not be considered demotions, Washburn writes, because it is the team’s way of tutoring these players. While Boston’s young players are racking up minutes in the D-League, other rookies around the league are just riding the bench, Washburn adds.
  • Tara Greco resigned this week from her role as NBPA communications director, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports reports (via Twitter).

Latest On Nicolas Batum

10:51pm: If the Blazers and Wolves fail to work out a trade and the Wolves sign Batum to an offer sheet, the Wolves will have to make a series of moves to do so, given what's expected to be a $10MM first-year salary in Minnesota's offer to Batum, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

The moves would include buying out Brad Miller and Martell Webster and using the amnesty clause to waive Darko Milicic, Zgoda says, adding the Wolves may also have to trade a player. Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and Wesley Johnson are possible trade candidates in that scenario. Ridnour or a draft pick could be headed to the Bulls in a deal that would send Kyle Korver to the Blazers.  

6:33pm: Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has Olshey's comments on the possibility of a sign-and-trade for Batum.

You don't close the door to anything in this league,” the Blazers GM said. "But, from what I can see, as far as what they can viably offer as of today, I would think Nicolas would have more value than what they can put in a sign-and-trade.”

Read more

And-Ones: ‘Melo, Batum, Hield

Carmelo Anthony wasn’t at the Knicks triangle seminar this week after all, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post and Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, despite an earlier report that he was. Some say the seminar was mandatory and others called it voluntary, Isola hears, adding that one player said team president Phil Jackson only invited a few Knicks. Anthony is believed to be receiving therapy on his left knee, Berman writes, and the triangle sessions were mostly review, a source told the Post scribe, who downplays the significance of ‘Melo’s absence. Still, 10 other Knicks took part, Berman hears, including Kristaps Porzingis, who’s recovering from a shoulder strain and recently had a routine visit at the Hospital for Special Surgery, notes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (ESPN Now link). The other attendees, according to Berman, were Jerian Grant, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Tony WrotenSasha Vujacic, Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin.

See more from around the NBA:

  • Nicolas Batum isn’t definitively out for the rest of the Hornets‘ first-round series against Miami, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, dispelling an earlier report, but he’s unlikely to return unless it goes at least six games, Bonnell says. Batum is poised for free agency this summer.
  • Indiana freshman small forward OG Anunoby won’t enter this year’s draft, the school announced (Twitter link). He was a late second-round prospect for this year, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, who ranks him the 50th, but the 6’8″ 18-year-old has first-round potential for next year, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress slots him 20th in his 2017 mock draft. Anunoby saw limited action this season, putting up 4.9 points in 13.7 minutes per game.
  • Long-shot draft prospect Moustapha Diagne will enter this year’s draft, but he’ll do so without an agent so he can retain his college eligibility, a source told Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). The 6’8″ 20-year-old from Northwest Florida State, a community college, is a former Syracuse commit, Rothstein notes, and he was 68th in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index coming out of high school last year. Neither Ford nor Givony ranks him among the top 100 draft prospects.
  • Top-10 prospect and former Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield has signed with agent Rob Pelinka of Landmark Sports, a source told Darren Rovell of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link).

And-Ones: Batum, Booker, Milutinov

A change that would allow underclassmen greater capacity to return to school after declaring for the draft would indeed take effect for next year if the NCAA approves the proposal in January, as Dan Guerrero, chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball oversight committee, said to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The committee lent its sponsorship to the measure Wednesday, and a formal vote on adoption is to take place in January, according to Katz.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Hawks have discussed moving up from the No. 15 overall pick in the draft with a number of teams, including the Pacers, who sit at No. 11, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders relays (via Twitter). A number of executives around the league believe that Atlanta is trying to land Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky, Kennedy adds. Kaminsky is a draft possibility for the Hornets (No. 9), Heat (No. 10), and the Jazz (No. 12), which could complicate the Hawks’ designs on snagging the talented shooter.
  • Speaking about newly acquired swingman Nicolas Batum, Hornets GM Rich Cho said, “He is a quality defender and a solid outside shooter who brings versatility and playoff experience,” Mike Tokito of The Oregonian tweets. Batum’s deal includes a trade bonus that will lift his cap hit by about $890K for the 2014/15 campaign and approximately $890K again for 2015/16, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders notes (Twitter links). The Blazers also end up with a trade exception, according to Pincus, worth $3,241,300.
  • Many executives around the NBA believe that Kentucky guard Devin Booker is the player in this year’s NBA Draft who could benefit the most from significant time spent in the D-League during his rookie campaign, Keith Schlosser of SBNation writes. While Booker is regarded as the best pure shooter in this year’s draft, a large number of NBA and D-League executives believe that Booker could stand to improve his agility, quickness, and instincts on both ends of the floor, Schlosser adds.
  • Serbian big man Nikola Milutinov is climbing up the draft boards and could possibly be selected in the first round, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (on Twitter). It’s doubtful that the Spurs would be the team to select the seven-footer, a league source informed Dan McCarney of The San Antonio Express-News tweets. San Antonio currently owns the No. 26 overall pick.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Magette, Lamb

The Hornets may be without Nicolas Batum yet again, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The 28-year-old swingman injured the same elbow that sidelined him for the first 12 games of the season.

While details are not yet known as to the extent of Batum’s recent setback, he missed the second half of the Hornets’ Wednesday night home game against Washington with a left elbow contusion.

All told, Batum missed six weeks with a torn ligament in the same elbow to start the season, so the fact that the injury stems from the same area is cause for concern.

In his five games of action for the Hornets, Batum has averaged 11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic have fallen back down to earth after a 6-2 start but that doesn’t mean their apparent progress was a mirage. As John Denton of the team’s official site writes, the club is simply going through necessary growing pains.
  • The Hawks may have found themselves a diamond in the rough in the form of two-way contract signee Josh Magette. ESPN’s Ian Begley tweets that the undrafted rookie, who just posted four points, four rebounds and five assists in 15 minutes on Wednesday, has already impressed people around the league.
  • If Nicolas Batum ends up missing significant time with his re-injured left elbow, the Hornets will turn yet again to Jeremy Lamb who has emerged as a prolific perimeter scorer. The 25-year-old belongs in the conversation for Most Improved Player, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.

Cavaliers Offered Batum $52MM

According to a new report by the Oregonian's Joe Freeman, the Cleveland Cavaliers made Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum an offer of four years and $52MM when he was a restricted free agent this summer. That offer is significantly higher than the offer sheet Batum signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, worth $46MM over four years. Portland matched that offer after it was signed.

In Freeman's article, Batum discussed the free-agency process, which was contentious at times between the Blazers and Timberwolves:

"The thing is, I wanted to challenge them," he says. "Because I'm European. And when people say, 'We love you,' they show you they love you. That's a stupid European, French thing. But it's true. After what happened in January, I wanted them to show me they loved me."

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Graham

If you’re wondering why Nicolas Batum hasn’t been his regular self for the Hornets since returning to the court, it’s because of lingering pain associated with the torn tendon in his left elbow, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.

Batum elected to forego potential season-ending injury in October when a specialist said that it would be possible to recover through rehabilitation. Batum returned to the Hornets after six weeks. In the 12 starts since, he’s averaged 10.1 points on 37% shooting from the field and just 22% from downtown. Last year, in contrast, he averaged 15.1 on 40% and 33%.

Since I got back, I’ve not been 100 percent yet. Not even close to 100 percent. It’s always there. Every contact: I grab someone, or someone grabs me, or someone hits me,” the versatile Hornets forward said. “I get [pain] every game.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic are creeping toward a playoff spot but George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel says that’s not exactly a good thing. The scribe notes that the team has shown signs of relative competence but also mediocrity, the latter a one-way ticket to the dreaded middle-ground between success and actually landing a top lottery pick.
  • Plenty has gone wrong for the Hornets this season but the club has reason to be optimistic about Treveon Graham, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The versatile wing, who can slide into a forward spot if necessary, could have an impact on how the team handles the coming few, injury-plagued weeks.
  • An MRI has revealed that Evan Fournier‘s ankle is sprained. The Magic guard hasn’t played since Wednesday, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes, but he considers himself to be day-to-day.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Magic, Wade

With a full scrimmage under his belt, Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum is expected to make his 2017/18 debut on Wednesday, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow back on October 4.

One of the biggest impacts that Batum will have on the team is with his ball movement, as he posted 5.9 assists in addition to his 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Hornets last season.

I bet he got an assist to everybody he played with today. There were a couple of times when he hit me wide-open and I wasn’t expecting the ball,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said after the practice.

The club will get an even better idea of how ready Batum is to return to in-game action when they ramp things up at the Hornets’ practice on Monday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • While he’s sure to clarify that the Magic don’t boast the same caliber of elite level talent that the Warriors have, John Denton of the team’s official site writes that Orlando has played rather Golden State-ish so far this season. The Magic have benefited from the same pace-and-space tactics that the historically dominant reigning champion Warriors have for the past several seasons.
  • The recent Eric Bledsoe trade has Heat beat writer Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel reexamining how the Goran Dragic deal holds up two years later. Like Bledsoe, Dragic was a quality Suns point guard that didn’t fit the team’s timeline at the time of the trade. Phoenix has yet to cash in on their spoils from that deal, Winderman writes. The Suns will collect Miami’s first-round pick in June (with some protections) and an unprotected first in 2021.
  • If Dion Waiters plays in 70 games for the Heat this season, he’ll earn an additional $1.1MM, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. That doesn’t mean the veteran will risk his health, however. “At the end of the day,” Waiters said, “If it’s something serious, I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way. I’m going to sit out. My body is more important.

Hornets Re-Sign Nicolas Batum

JULY 7: The Hornets have officially announced their new deal with Batum.

JULY 1: The Hornets have struck a deal with Nicolas Batum, and will bring the veteran forward back on a long-term contract, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter links). Charania reports that Batum and the Hornets have agreed to a five-year, $120MM deal, which will include a player option on the final season.Nicolas Batum horizontal

Batum, 27, would have been eligible for a maximum-salary contract worth in excess of $150MM, so it seems he was willing to settle for significantly less than that to remain in Charlotte, despite the fact that we heard earlier in the night that he was seeking a max deal.

The longtime Trail Blazer was traded from Portland to Charlotte last June, and had a nice bounce-back season in his first year with the Hornets, averaging a career-high 14.9 points per game, to go with 6.1 RPG, 5.8 APG, and 2.0 three-pointers per game.

Prior to reaching an agreement with the Hornets, Batum had scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the Mavericks in Dallas and planned to the Knicks, Lakers and Wizards via phone. It’s not clear whether or not all of those conversations took place. The Lakers reportedly had Batum at or near the top of their free agent wish list.

We ranked Batum eighth on our list of this year’s top 50 free agents, suggesting that he was one of the best – and most versatile – wings available. Teams that missed on Batum may shift their focus to players like Kent Bazemore and Marvin Williams instead.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Simmons, Batum, Wizards

The Magic have jumped out to a 6-2 start this season despite the fact that much of the core they’ve featured this season is a carryover from last year’s team that finished just 29-53. The X-Factor that’s helping the team perform so much better in 2017/18 could very well be Jonathon Simmons, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes.

Simmons signed a three-year deal worth $20MM this summer and has earned the trust of head coach Frank Vogel early in his Magic career.

He has earned the trust. You know, when we put the ball in his hands, typically, he makes good things happen,” Vogel said. “He’s a good decision maker, and he’s a threat going to the basket. I mean, he really attacks the rim and will get to the free throw line and will finish. He does a good job making the extra pass, too. I do have a lot of trust; he’s earned it very early with me in his stay [with the Magic].

Through eight games with the Magic so far this year, Simmons has averaged 15.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

Eastern Notes: Batum, Calderon, Whittington

The impact that Nicolas Batum has had on the Hornets this season has him in line to land a major payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. The swingman is likely to seek a maximum salary contract this summer, and while it’s debatable whether Batum is worthy of that amount even with the salary cap set to increase drastically for 2016/17, Charlotte’s inability to lure top-tier free agents may make investing in him for the long-term a wise move, Bonnell adds. While Batum is not a star in the traditional sense, he does make his teammates around him better as well as provide coach Steve Clifford a well-rounded set of skills to utilize, Bonnell writes. Batum is averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 35.6 minutes per outing on the campaign.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Much-maligned Knicks point guard Jose Calderon said he’s looking forward to playing with the Spanish national team in this summer’s Olympics, noting that he is “appreciated there,” Marc Berman of The New York Post relays. “I want to be there,’’ said Calderon. “It will be my fourth Olympics. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to play more. I think four is a good number. After 16 years on the national team, I’m not going to get to 2020. It’s a little bit too far for me.” Calderon has one year and approximately $7.7MM remaining on his contract but the Knicks could use the stretch provision to waive him and save $5MM on next season’s cap.
  • The Pacers have recalled Shayne Whittington from their D-League affiliate, the team announced. The center has appeared in 34 games for the Mad Ants this season, averaging 12.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Deng, Fournier

Hornets GM Rich Cho wants to re-sign as many of the team’s own soon-to-be free agents as possible, and he made it clear in his season-ending press conference today that Nicolas Batum is chief among his priorities, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays (All Twitter links). Cho said he told Batum that bringing him back tops his to-do list, and the Charlotte executive is confident the swingman wants to stay. “[Nic] definitely wants to be here,” Cho said, according to the Hornets Twitter feed. “He’s grown to like the city. He just had a child and his family likes it here. … We want him here.” Batum said earlier this week that he’s not sure how his free agency will play out but noted that he’d talk to Charlotte before speaking with any other teams.

See more on the Hornets amid news from the Southeast Division:

  • Cho also mentioned that he’d like to add a rim protector in the offseason and said he thinks this year’s draft class has enough decent players for the Hornets to land one with their pick at No. 22, as Bonnell passes along (Twitter links).
  • Luol Deng‘s late-season surge since moving to power forward helps his market value and presents a conundrum for the Heat, particularly given the question marks surrounding Chris Bosh, observes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Deng is heading to free agency this summer, but the Heat only have his Early Bird rights, just as with Hassan Whiteside.
  • Orlando has no shortage of cap flexibility for the offseason ahead, but the team should be willing to overpay Evan Fournier if that’s what’s necessary to quickly secure a commitment from him, The Vertical’s Bobby Marks argues.  The Magic could thus keep his low cap hold on the books and use their cap space on others before officially signing Fournier via Bird rights.
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