Nicolas Batum

California Notes: Kawhi, Matthews, Batum, Wiggins

Clippers All-Star wing Kawhi Leonard is making a concerted effort to be a more vocal leader this season, as Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register details. His new teammate Serge Ibaka, who won a title with Leonard in 2019 when both were with the Raptors, encouraged Leonard to do this when he arrived to LA this season.

“Leaders need not only to come on the court and score 30 points. You have to show the team, your teammates, like you’re willing to give everything for them,” Ibaka said of the All-NBA Clippers forward. “And so far, he’s been doing a great job of that. He’s been communicating with everybody… this is something really new I see from Kawhi.”

There’s more out of California:

  • New Lakers wing Wesley Matthews, a longtime starter in the NBA, is adjusting to his new role coming off the bench, according to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. “We don’t worry about Wes,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a knockdown shooter and a great defender. Just excited that he’s in a Lakers uniform and what kind of things he’s gonna give us throughout the year.”
  • With newly-extended Clippers forward Marcus Morris out of commission due to a sore right knee, veteran offseason addition Nicolas Batum has comfortably slid into his starting power forward role, per Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. Batum is averaging 27.5 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 3.5 APG for Los Angeles.
  • Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins has vastly improved his pick-and-roll output this season, writes Zach Harper of The Athletic. He is producing 116.7 points per 100 possessions as a pick-and-roll scorer thus far in 2020/21.

Pacific Notes: Batum, Kerr, Wiseman, LeBron

Nicolas Batum wasn’t around for the Clippers‘ meltdown in last season’s playoffs, but he can tell there’s something different about this year’s version of the team, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. has been able to battle through adversity after building big leads in a pair of early-season wins.

Friday night in Denver, the Clippers saw a 21-point lead cut to 11 midway through the fourth quarter when Kawhi Leonard left the game after taking an elbow to the face. Batum drew a charge on the next play and L.A. kept its composure to secure the win.

“This is where in those moments, you breathe in (as) a team, you guys can get to know who you are as a team,” Batum said. “… We make stops, we didn’t panic, we didn’t do crazy stuff, we didn’t rush. We did a little bit sometimes. That’s what guys corrected because we made bad turnovers and took quick shots, but overall, that was better.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors may not have the roster to succeed with coach Steve Kerr‘s regular offense, observes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Stephen Curry leads Golden State in assists through two games with 16, but reserve guard Brad Wanamaker is the only other Warrior with at least five. Slater notes that the team doesn’t have the collection of instinctive passers and cutters that it did in recent years. “I’ve got to stay on them and continue to work, find ways to get better organized and look like a five-man unit,” Kerr said after Friday’s blowout loss in Milwaukee. “We’re just scattered right now. It just looks like we’re a series of moving parts.”
  • One bright spot for the Warriors in the early season has been the play of James Wiseman, Slater tweets. The 19-year-old center is averaging 18.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and looks worthy of being selected with the second overall pick. “He’s clearly the focal point of the future of how we’re building this team with Steph, Klay (Thompson), Draymond (Green),” Kerr said. “I can now throw James in there.”
  • Lakers star LeBron James has been chosen as Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the fourth time, writes Tim Reynolds of the AP. James was selected for helping his team win the NBA title and being a leader in the social justice movement.

Clippers Notes: Kennard, Batum, Zubac, Ibaka

Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum, two important offseason additions for the Clippers, haven’t played a regular season NBA game in nearly a year, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Both players are trying to use the shortened preseason to get ready for opening night, which is just six days away.

The Pistons shut down Kennard last December 21 because of knee tendinitis. He had been hoping to return March 14, but the hiatus kept that from happening. Batum appeared in just 22 games last season, limited by injuries and the Hornets’ preference to give minutes to their younger players.

“The first (preseason) game was kind of weird,” Batum said. “I just wanted to go out there and just be back on the court and just play basketball and do some stuff and be sure I don’t do some crazy mistake. That’s really my goal the first two games, to be back on the court and get through the motion and get my rhythm and the feel for the court.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • Ivica Zubac is adjusting to his new role as backup center, notes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Zubac is expected to play similar minutes as in the past, but he will be on the court with a different set of teammates. “Zu specifically, he just has to get better with his hands,” said Lou Williams, the leader of the team’s second unit. “That was a conversation we spoke to. I’m a willing passer and he knows that. And so for him to be successful and get a lot of easy looks, we’re gonna have to get better and get on the same page with that. Other than that, I look forward to growing with him.”
  • Kennard and Serge Ibaka are both better fits for the Clippers than the players they replaced, contends John Hollinger of The Athletic. He sees Kennard, who can help run the offense, as a more complete player than Landry Shamet and notes that Ibaka’s ability to space the floor makes him more versatile than Montrezl Harrell. Hollinger opines that Paul George won’t be able to live up to his new four-year, $176MM contract, but thinks it still makes sense for the team, since the focus is on competing for a title in the next two seasons.
  • Reggie Jackson and assistant coach Chauncey Billups both returned to the team after being excused from Sunday’s game due to health and safety protocols, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Hornets Notes: Biyombo, Batum, Hayward, Offense

The Hornets used some of their available cap space to re-sign reserve center Bismack Biyombo to a one-year contract worth $3.5MM, and also gave first-year salaries of $1.5MM to center Vernon Carey Jr. and $1MM to forward Nick Richards, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Marks goes on to note that the Hornets, who still have about $4MM in available cap space, will also be able to use their $4.8M room exception to add an additional player if they so choose.

There’s more out of Charlotte:

  • After forward Nicolas Batum signed a veteran’s minimum deal with the Clippers when the Hornets waived him, Charlotte stands to save $559,528 spread out over the three-year duration of his stretched contract, per ESPN’ s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).
  • The robust $120MM, four-year contract of new Hornets forward Gordon Hayward has a 15% trade kicker baked into it, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. This would make the end of his deal, already thought to be exorbitant for a player with his injury history and age, even more expensive if he’s moved.
  • Following a breakout scoring season with the Hornets in 2019/20, guard Devonte’ Graham is in favor of a more balanced offensive attack incorporating new additions Hayward and LaMelo Ball, even though that means Graham’s looks could decrease, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Batum, Hield, Suns, Warriors

In a fascinating, in-depth article for The Athletic, Jovan Buha takes a deep dive into the chemistry issues that plagued the Clippers during the 2019/20 season, exploring the club’s leadership void and various players’ grievances with the preferential treatment that star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George received.

While Buha and others have reported about the Clippers’ locker room issues throughout the year, the latest Athletic story includes more specific details, including many of the perks provided to Leonard and George that irked teammates and compromised the positive culture that players bought into during the previous two seasons.

According to Buha, the two stars had power over the Clippers’ practice and travel schedule. Additionally, teammates believed Leonard and George were allowed to pick and choose when they played (not just sitting out games, but manipulating their playing time within games).

There are too many specific stories and details in Buha’s report to pass along all of them, but the upshot is that the Clippers are hoping new head coach Tyronn Lue – with the help of new roster additions like Serge Ibaka – will be able to address many of those issues, putting a greater emphasis on accountability. Sources tell The Athletic that players are excited to play for Lue and that Leonard and George are aware they must “establish a healthier locker room dynamic” in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

Nicolas Batum Signs With Clippers

10:08pm: The team officially announced the Batum signing in a press release and the Tucker signing in a separate release.


9:43pm: After clearing waivers following his release by the Hornets, veteran free agent forward Nicolas Batum will sign with the Clippers, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Batum’s intention to sign with Los Angeles was initially reported by Charania after he was officially waived by Charlotte. The 31-year-old wing was a solid three-and-D contributor in his prime with the Trail Blazers and Hornets, but his production noticeably declined after he signed a five-year, $120MM extension with the Hornets in 2016.

Across his 12 NBA seasons, the 6’9″ swingman holds career averages of 11.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.9 APG, and 0.6 APG in 31.3 MPG. He is a career 35.7% shooter on 4.4 attempts a night from three-point land, and is shooting 84.1% from the charity stripe. Batum was a part-time player for the first time in his career in 2019/20, suiting up for just 22 games with the Hornets.

The Clippers are no doubt hoping Batum can conjure a semblance of this output in a fraction of the minutes for a championship contender led by star swingmen Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Batum is set to compete with fellow free agent wing Rayjon Tucker for reserve minutes, as Charania adds in a separate tweet that the Clippers will also sign Tucker. It’s an Exhibit 10 contract for Tucker, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

The 23-year-old shooting guard, who split his college eligibility between Florida Gulf Coast and Little Rock, went undrafted in 2019. He played for the Bucks’ G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, to start the 2019/20 NBA season. He then signed on with the Jazz for the remainder of the season. Between stints with the Herd and Utah’s G League club, the Salt Lake City Stars, Tucker played 19 G League games.

Tucker averaged 23.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 0.9 SPG in the G League. He posted a slash line of .472/.361/.713. The 6’5″ wing was awarded December 2019’s G League Player of the Month honors, and netted an Eastern Conference Midseason All-NBA G League selection.

A defensive specialist at the next level, Tucker played 20 regular season games for the Jazz, averaging 8.1 MPG. Earlier this offseason, the Jazz traded Tucker to the Cavaliers, who subsequently waived him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hornets Notes: Hayward, Batum, Carey

Hornets head of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak had talked for the better part of the year about not planning to make a splash in free agency. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Charlotte completed the biggest unrestricted free agent contract of the 2020 offseason, signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract.

Addressing that disconnect during his Tuesday session with reporters, Kupchak explained that he simply wasn’t expecting a player like Hayward to be available this fall.

“I did not think that we would be in a position to pursue a free agent of Gordon’s caliber,” Kupchak said, per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

As for whether Hayward’s injury history made the Hornets nervous about making such a significant investment in the 30-year-old forward, Kupchak downplayed any concerns the team might have had, as Bonnell writes.

“He passed our physical with flying colors,” he said. “He’s a good age for an NBA player and keeps himself in great shape … There’s no reason to believe, knock on wood, that he won’t be healthy here the next four years.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Speaking today to reporters about his decision to join the Hornets, Hayward said the team’s interest in him back in 2014 was a factor in choosing Charlotte, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. He also sounded excited about taking on a bigger role than he had in Boston, as the leader of a young Hornets roster. “The think I like to do most is play-make and create for others,” he said. “Obviously in my career, I’ve done the scoring thing as well. I’m versatile. I can just help us try to impact our time with winning as much as possible. The pieces are there in place. Sometimes with a young team you just need to get over that initial hump to get to that next level. I’m excited about that opportunity and that challenge.”
  • Asked today about waiving and stretching Nicolas Batum and his $27MM+ expiring contract, Kupchak explained that it would have cost the Hornets multiple draft picks to dump Batum’s salary in a trade. The team may also have had to take back another (smaller) veteran contract in the deal, Kupchak added (Twitter link via Bonnell).
  • The four-year contract that No. 32 overall pick Vernon Carey Jr. signed with the Hornets will have a first-year salary of $1.35MM, followed by minimum salaries in years two through four, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The final year will be a team option, but it sounds like the first three will be guaranteed.

Nicolas Batum Waived By Hornets, Plans To Sign With Clippers

As expected, the Hornets have waived veteran forward Nicolas Batum, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The team has officially confirmed the move in a press release.

Batum was excised from the Hornets’ rotation this past season, appearing in just 22 games (23.0 MPG) and playing poorly in his limited time, with 3.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.0 APG on .346/.286/.900 shooting. However, he’s only entering his age-32 season and should look more appealing on a minimum-salary deal than he did on his five-year, $120MM contract.

The Clippers are willing to bet on a bounce-back season from Batum, with Charania reporting (via Twitter) that the forward intends to sign with L.A. once he clears waivers. The Clips only have 12 players on fully guaranteed salaries and could use some additional depth on the wing, so Batum should be a good fit on the roster.

According to Charania (via Twitter), the Clippers were one of multiple contending teams with interest in Batum once Charlotte made it clear he would be cut. Golden State, Toronto, Utah, and Milwaukee were previously cited as potential suitors.

A report back on November 21 first indicated that Charlotte planned to waive Batum and stretch his $27MM+ salary across three seasons, opening up the cap room necessary for the team to sign Gordon Hayward to his new four-year, $120MM contract.

Once the Celtics and Hornets began discussing the possibility of turning Charlotte’s Hayward acquisition into a sign-and-trade, there was some uncertainty about whether releasing Batum would be necessary. The Hornets were believed to be exploring the possibility of sending him to Boston or – more likely – another team as part of a Hayward deal.

Although that won’t happen, that doesn’t mean that Hayward can’t still be acquired via sign-and-trade. We continue to await word on that front, but a sign-and-trade agreement would benefit the Celtics, who could generate a massive traded player exception in such a deal.

Now that Batum has been waived, it will make little difference from the Hornets’ perspective whether they sign Hayward outright or acquire him via sign-and-trade. If they can extract a sweetener (ie. a second-round pick or two) from Boston, it would make sense for Charlotte to accommodate the C’s and turn it into a sign-and-trade. We should find out soon whether or not that’s in the cards.

[UPDATE: Hornets Add Gordon Hayward Via Sign-And-Trade With Celtics]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hornets, Celtics Still Exploring Sign-And-Trade Structure For Hayward Deal

NOVEMBER 25: The Celtics and Hornets have continued to work on ways to turn the Hayward deal into a sign-and-trade, with Charlotte trying to find a team that might be able to take on Batum’s $27MM expiring deal so that he doesn’t have to be waived-and-stretched, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It sounds as if the Celtics don’t have any interest in taking on Batum or another player from the Hornets, preferring to generate a significant trade exception for signing-and-trade Hayward. The Thunder and Knicks may be the two teams best positioned to accommodate a salary dump, but there would be cap-related challenges in both cases.


NOVEMBER 21: The Celtics and Hornets are still discussing the possibility of turning Charlotte’s signing of Gordon Hayward into a sign-and-trade, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).

Hayward reached an agreement earlier today to join the Hornets on a four-year, $120MM contract. Charlotte doesn’t have the cap room necessary to fit Hayward’s first-year salary in without making a corresponding roster move, so the team is reportedly planning to waive and stretch the final year of Nicolas Batum‘s contract, creating an extra $18MM in space.

Whether or not the Hornets intend to move forward with their plan to use the stretch provision on Batum, it makes sense to explore the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

Sending out enough salary to altogether avoid having to waive Batum would create future cap savings for Charlotte, though it’s not clear if acquiring a player like Terry Rozier or Cody Zeller would be of any interest to the Celtics after they reportedly reached deals with Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson tonight.

Even if the Celtics don’t get anything of substance back from Charlotte in exchange for Hayward, the ability to create a massive traded player exception worth the forward’s outgoing salary should appeal to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, as that exception could come in handy at some point over the next year. Boston may be willing to send the Hornets a small asset – such as a future second-round pick or cash – in order to create a sizeable TPE.

If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, Charlotte can simply move forward with its initial plan to waive and stretch Batum.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Oladipo, Grant, VanVleet

The Nets have shifted their focus away from a potential James Harden blockbuster and are simply looking to make marginal upgrades to the roster, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Brooklyn might pursue the Hornets’ Nicolas Batum once he clears waivers to give itself another defensive wing. The Nets tried and failed to secure Serge Ibaka‘s services with the $5.7MM taxpayer mid-level exception and also struck out on wing Kent Bazemore, Lewis adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks president Leon Rose isn’t eager to pursue a trade for Pacers guard Victor Oladipo even though GM Scott Perry wants to explore that possibility, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The front office did make a strong push for free agent forward Jerami Grant, who wound up with the Pistons in a sign-and-trade with Denver. Rose could still make another trade for a rotation player or take on another team’s unwanted contract with an asset attached in order to reach the salary cap floor, Berman adds.
  • Re-signing Fred VanVleet to a four-year, $85MM contract could be considered overpaying but the Raptors have a reputation for rewarding players for a job well done, Eric Koreen of The Athletic opines. While the Raptors may have essentially been bidding against themselves at that price, their reputation of taking care of their own helps in acquiring other players. The contract is also structured so that they can pursue a top-flight free agent next summer.
  • That contract could ultimately prove to be a good value if VanVleet improves in a few areas, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. He needs to get better with his pull-up shooting and finishing at the rim when he takes over lead guard responsibilities, which will happen when Kyle Lowry leaves or shifts to more of an off-guard role. He also needs to get better in pick-and-rolls, Murphy adds.