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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: Batum, Forcier, Hornets

Hornets GM Rich Cho, speaking at a pre-draft press conference on Friday, told reporters that the team is likely to draft the best available player and would not target a specific need given the large amount of the roster set to hit free agency, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. “With eight free agents, I don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re just trying to get more depth,” Cho said. “[Need] is a hard question to answer because we have so many free agents and don’t know how it’s going to play out.” The executive also reiterated that the team’s top offseason priority is re-signing unrestricted free agent swingman Nicolas Batum, Bonnell adds. “We hope to meet with him as soon as free agency starts,” Cho said of Batum. “Our goal is to get something done with him.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets held a workout earlier this week that included Marshall Plumlee (Duke), Matt Costello (Michigan State), Frank Eaves (Appalachian State), Angel Rodriguez (Miami) and Wayne Selden (Kansas), Bonnell relays in a separate piece.
  • New Magic head coach Frank Vogel is pursuing Spurs assistant Chad Forcier to be his top assistant in Orlando, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (via Twitter).
  • The uncertainty surrounding the health status of power forward Chris Bosh will hamper the Heat‘s offseason plans and could result in a number of the team’s free agents departing this summer, Keith P. Smith of RealGM writes. The scribe also notes that the potential for unpleasantness exists if Bosh is medically cleared to play and Miami is still unwilling to allow him to risk a return to the court.

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.

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.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Batum, Hoiberg

The Knicks increasingly sense that Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton won’t leave Golden State for a head coaching job this summer, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Knicks team president Phil Jackson is in contact with Bulls executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson, who used to play for the Zen Master, and Jackson isn’t impressed with Tom Thibodeau, who worked for Paxson as Bulls coach, Berman writes. The Post scribe also implies Jackson isn’t about to go out of his way to hire former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, leaving few options other than interim coach Kurt Rambis, whom Berman hears is closer with Jackson than just about any coach is with his boss and allows Jackson the level of input he’s longed for. However, Knicks players don’t respect Rambis as much as they did former coach Derek Fisher, sources indicated to Berman.

While we wait to see just who gets the job in New York, see more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Assistant coach Jim Cleamons, a former NBA point guard, was allowed only limited contact with rookie point guard Jerian Grant while Fisher was coach, but those restrictions have been lifted since Rambis took over, Berman reports in the same piece.
  • An NBA GM told The Oregonian’s John Canzano he thinks Nicolas Batum will be able to command salaries of $15MM to $17MM in free agency this summer (Twitter link). That’s well beneath the roughly $25MM maximum salary, though Zach Lowe of ESPN.com wrote in January that the Hornets swingman was likely to draw max offers. Batum is No. 9 in the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has drawn criticism for his inability to reach players, but, perhaps buoyed by Taj Gibson‘s support, Hoiberg insists the locker room is united, notes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune“You have to have that continuity in the locker room, that unity,” Hoiberg said. “You have to look like you’re getting your message across. And I think we’ve done that with the guys. I can just base it on how our film sessions are going and how when they’re on the [practice] floor, they’re locked in. I feel like we have good chemistry with our staff and players.”

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.

Northwest Notes: Batum, Malone, Singler

Nicolas Batum‘s former Trail Blazers teammates Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have fond memories of the small forward whom Portland traded to the Hornets this past summer, and Batum admits it will be “weird” Friday when Charlotte plays at Portland, The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman observes. Batum is a free agent at season’s end, and the Blazers will have plenty of cap space this summer, but there’s been no talk of a reunion.

“He was a really good teammate,” Lillard said. “I always remember my rookie year and my second year, when it would get to five minutes or less in the game, he would always come tap me on my back and be like, ‘Dame, it’s your time. Take over the game.’ Just being so young and having somebody who’s been a part of this team come to me and have that much confidence, that always meant a lot to me. He was always that type of person. He was unselfish. Just a good dude to play with.”

See more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Malone still stings from having been fired from the Kings in 2014, but he’s fully engaged with the Nuggets and he and former Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro, who was Malone’s boss at the time of the firing and is now in the Nuggets front office, don’t feel any “angst or hate” toward one another, Malone tells Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan has said repeatedly that he’s a fan of what Kyle Singler can do on defense with his 6’8″ body, and the absence of the injured Andre Roberson will challenge Singler to live up to the five-year, $24.3MM deal he signed this past summer, observes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.
  • Tyus Jones hasn’t played in 12 consecutive games for the Timberwolves, but he’s not complaining, and he prefers sitting on the bench and getting practice reps with his NBA teammates to playing on D-League assignment, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details. The rookie spent much of December with the Jazz D-League affiliate.

Eastern Notes: Batum, Clifford, James

Hornets coach Steve Clifford‘s new contract extension could enhance the team’s chance of re-signing swingman Nicolas Batum, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes (Twitter links). “He trusts me. He believes in me. So that could be a big factor,” Batum said when discussing his upcoming free agent decision. Batum was acquired from Portland this past summer in exchange for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson.

Here’s more from the East:

  • The first three years of Clifford’s extension are fully guaranteed, with the final season in 2019/20 a team option, Bonnell tweets.
  • The Cavaliers held a players-only meeting after their Wednesday night loss to the Raptors, and LeBron James and James Jones both chastised the squad for its inconsistent play and effort, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “It’s all mindset,” James said after the game. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.” LeBron also noted that the Eastern Conference, which has been much-maligned for being mediocre the past few seasons, is greatly improved this year, McMenamin relays. “There’s always been a lot of shade thrown at our conference the last few years, so it’s great to see that our side is definitely picking it up and playing at a high level,” James said.
  • Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis is winning over the team’s fans, but he still hasn’t forgotten that his draft selection was met with boos when first announced, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It still sits inside of you a bit,’’ Porzingis said of the boos. “It’s not a good feeling when you get booed. But I don’t want to be good because somebody booed me. I want to be great player because that’s the way I am. It definitely gave me extra motivation.’’

And-Ones: Thunder, Batum, 2016 Draft

The ESPN Summer Forecast panel tabs the Thunder as the team most likely to vault in the standings this year, which is no surprise given the return of Kevin Durant and the team’s decision to match the Blazers’ offer sheet for high-scoring big man Enes Kanter . The Heat, who re-signed Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic and get Chris Bosh from his blood clot ailment, and the Jazz, who surged late last season, also appear in the top three.

There’s more on Oklahoma City amid other NBA-related news:

  • The Thunder allowed a trade exception that had been worth $1.25MM to expire when they didn’t make a move by Wednesday’s deadline to use it. It was a vestige of the trade that sent Hasheem Thabeet to Philadelphia. Oklahoma City still has other trade exceptions, the largest of which is worth $2.75MM thanks to the last of this summer’s many deals involving Luke Ridnour.
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford says that he envisions Nicolas Batum having a more prominent offensive role in Charlotte than he did with the Blazers last season, as Adi Joseph of The Sporting News relays (via Twitter). Charlotte acquired Batum, 26, from the Blazers in June as part of the trade that shipped Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson to Portland.
  • ESPN’s Chad Ford (Insider subscription required) released his initial mock draft for 2016, and snagging the top spot is LSU freshman small forward Ben Simmons, followed by Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere and California swingman Jaylen Brown.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Hornets Rumors: Batum, Lamb, Clifford

New Hornet Nicolas Batum can expect an expanded role in Charlotte, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Batum, who was acquired from the Blazers Wednesday in exchange for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh, was a third or fourth option in Portland. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford plans to start Batum at shooting guard and run the offense through him, similar to how Hedo Turkoglu once operated when Clifford was an assistant coach in Orlando. “I know my role is going to be different and I like that,” Batum said. “I know I can do a lot of things on the court; I’m a very versatile player. So me and Kemba [Walker] can do great things together.” Batum has one year left on his contract at nearly $11.9MM and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

There’s more news from Charlotte:

  • Jeremy Lamb is ready for a “fresh start” with the Hornets, writes Pat James of The Charlotte Observer. The Hornets acquired Lamb from Oklahoma City in a draft-day trade as part of an effort to improve their league-worst three-point shooting. The three-year veteran, who is now with his third team, says Charlotte is a good place for him to showcase his skills. “It gives me an opportunity to try to get a role and just play,” Lamb said. “I’m going to make the most of it. I’m just going to work hard and try my best to put myself in a position to play and have a role on this team.” Still on his rookie deal, Lamb is under the Hornets’ control through the 2016/17 season.
  • Clifford thinks the Hornets are much improved after a week that brought three trades and a lottery pick, according to Steve Reed of the Associated Press. In addition to the deals that added Batum and Lamb, Charlotte acquired Spencer Hawes from the Clippers and drafted Frank Kaminsky at No. 9. Clifford said the moves brought “more size, skill and versatility” to the Hornets.
  • The Hornets’ priorities in free agency will be finding a third point guard and possibly another shooter, Bonnell tweets. He adds that it’s not certain Bismack Biyombo will receive a qualifying offer. This week’s trades added $5MM to the Hornets payroll. (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Batum, Warriors, Sixers, Clippers

The Timberwolves will be on the clock just one hour from now. While we wait with eager anticipation, here’s the latest from around the league:

  • The Pistons expressed interest in Nicolas Batum before he was shipped from the Blazers to the Hornets, a person with knowledge of the team’s inner workings told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.  Therefore, Ellis expects that Detroit will target a small forward in the mold of Batum in the draft.
  • While the Warriors would like to move up from No. 30 in the first round, that doesn’t seem likely right now, David Aldridge of TNT tweets.
  • Tom Moore of Calkins Media (on Twitter) hears that the players union didn’t like the Sixers trading for JaVale McGee at the deadline.  That acquisition cost existing Sixers players money since the team had needed to spend more in order to reach the NBA salary floor. The players association is reportedly probing the moves the Sixers have made of late for possible circumvention of collective bargaining agreement tenets.
  • The Clippers still attempting to purchase a first-round pick, as Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times (on Twitter) hears.
  • Brandon Jennings expects he’ll be ready for training camp after having suffered a season-ending torn Achilles this past January, a source told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Wolves, Batum

The centerpieces for the Nuggets appear to be Danilo Gallinari and Jusuf Nurkic, as Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post sees it, and Kiszla finds it reasonable that the team will talk this summer about trading Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, or both. In any case, team president Josh Kroenke made it clear to Kiszla and fellow Post scribe Christopher Dempsey that he intends a strong push to find a star.

“There’s a period of transition that’s coming up, and we’re going to be aggressive … as an organization,” Kroenke said. “And continue to be aggressive until we feel we have the roster that truly can compete for something special.”

Kroenke judges by the volume of trade inquiries that he’s received from other teams, which include two calls since the season ended, that the players on Denver’s roster have plenty of value, Dempsey notes. There’s more on the Nuggets amid the latest from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves are tentatively planning a predraft workout with two-guards Rashad Vaughn from UNLV, J.P. Tokoto from North Carolina and Michael Frazier from Florida next month, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter links).
  • The prospect of a Nicolas Batum trade seemed far-fetched last summer, but now it’s a realistic possibility, as The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman writes in a roundtable piece with other Blazers beat writers. Freeman would nonetheless bet on Batum staying in Portland and having a bounceback season in 2015/16, the last on his contract.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti wants to re-sign Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler, and that has to do with the team’s cap situation as much as the talent and production of the pair of soon-to-be restricted free agents, The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry posits. Let them go, and the Thunder wouldn’t have the cap flexibility to replace them, Mayberry points out.
  • Kroenke pointed to a lack of communication as the most unexpected shortcoming of Brian Shaw‘s tenure as Nuggets coach, as Dempsey writes in a separate piece.

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Thunder, Batum

Recently fired Pelicans coach Monty Williams is among Billy Donovan’s targets for assistants with the Thunder, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Other rumored candidates are Bulls assistant Andy Greer, Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts and Knicks assistant Brian Keefe, who left Oklahoma City for Derek Fisher’s staff in New York last season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reportedly have a close relationship with Keefe and would be happy to see him return. Mike Brown, former head coach of the Cavaliers and Lakers, allegedly turned down an offer to join Donovan’s staff. Wojnarowski reports that Donovan will retain Thurnder assistants Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic and will make ex-Alabama coach Anthony Grant his third assistant coach. Billy Schmidt, who was part of Donovan’s staff at Florida, may come to OKC in a player development role.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • More than half of the Thunder’s interviews at this week’s NBA Draft Combine were with point guards and shooters, notes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. With Oklahoma City slotted at 14th headed into Tuesday’s draft lottery, that’s probably too low to get any of this year’s talented big men. However, Mayberry points out that the Thunder are in need of shooting help. “They said they know they need outside shooting,” said Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison, one of the players interviewed. “And I’m a shooter. I just got to hopefully get a workout with them and just dominate the workout.”
  • The BlazersNicolas Batum won’t be resting this summer after a disappointing season, writes Casey Holdahl of nba.com. Batum plans to represent France at EuroBasket [the European Championships], which his nation is hosting. Batum, who is entering the final season of a four-year contract and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, admits the recently ended season didn’t go as he had hoped. “I can say this was my toughest [season],” Batum said. “I didn’t play the way I used to play. I was thinking too much.”
  • Tim Frazier presents an intriguing decision for the Blazers, Holdahl contends in a separate story. The D-League’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player signed with Portland late in the season and has a non-guaranteed contract for next year worth $845K. Holdahl also focuses on Blazers veteran guard Steve Blake, who will probably be entering his final NBA season, Holdahl contends.

Western Notes: Pelicans, Curry, Batum

The Pelicans would prefer to re-sign all of their free agents this offseason which would allow them to stay over the cap and use the full mid-level exception to sign another veteran player, Zach Lowe of Grantland.com writes. New Orleans currently has $40,582,846 in guaranteed salary and another $16,699,815 in non-guaranteed funds committed for the 2015/16 campaign. Pelicans players who will become unrestricted free agents this summer include Omer Asik, Luke Babbitt, Jimmer Fredette, and Dante Cunningham.

Here’s more out of the NBA’s Western Conference:

  • 2014/15 NBA most valuable player Stephen Curry didn’t initially want the Warriors to draft him, and instead was hoping to go to the Knicks who were selecting one pick later than Golden State, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports writes. “The Knicks had [pick] eight and we thought in New York he’d be a great fit. We really wanted him to drop to eight,” Curry’s agent Jeff Austin said. “Once we got to seventh, we were like, ‘C’mon man, don’t pick him with [Golden State].’ At the time, the Warriors were not in our mind as a preferred destination.
  • The Blazers could look to deal Nicolas Batum and his expiring contract worth $12,235,750 this offseason, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com writes. When asked about the possibility of being traded, Batum said, “If that happens, it happens. That’s the business, I understand that. I mean, I can’t control that. All I can control is what I put on the court. I know what I am going to do this summer is try to get better.” If Portland is able to unload Batum the team could target Mavs forward Al-Farouq Aminu, Young speculates. Aminu has a player option worth $1,110,602 that he intends to opt out of this summer.
  • Dwight Howard is happy being a member of the Rockets, but he admitted that the venom fans spewed at him as a result of his free agent decisions still weigh on him, Kristie Reiken of The Associated Press relays. “Sometimes it hurts,” Howard said. “It used to hurt a lot more as I went from this guy that everybody likes to everybody hated me because I wanted to play basketball on another team. And I’m like: ‘Hey listen it’s really not that serious. If I stopped playing today, your life is going to be the same, my life is going to be the same, it’s just I’m not going to be playing basketball. So why should it matter what I decide?’

Western Notes: Batum, Parsons, Rockets

The Trail Blazers could move Nicolas Batum as he enters the final year of his contract, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com speculates. Batum, who will make approximately $12.2MM next season, may be shopped since GM Neil Olshey expects to actively reshape his roster this summer, Young continues. Wrist, knee and back injuries led to a disappointing 2014/15 season for Batum, as he indicated in his exit interview, the story adds. “I didn’t play the way I used to play,” he said. “I’ve been thinking too much.” If the Blazers trade Batum, they could make a run at Mavericks forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who has declared he will opt out of the final year of his contract and seek long-term security.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Chandler Parsons will take an active role in recruiting free agents for the Mavericks this summer, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. Parsons, who underwent knee surgery last week, feels obligated to help the team land its free-agent targets and has developed plenty of contacts and relationships around the league to make that happen, Sefko continues. Parsons is sold on the organization and has a sales pitch ready when the time comes, Sefko adds. “We have a great organization,” Parsons said to Sefko. “We have high expectations. We have the best owner in sports. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, and we have a lot of pieces that would fit well with the free agents out there right now. And we have a great coach, so I think we’re moving in the right direction. We’re a championship-caliber team.”
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes the Rockets became a better defensive team with the additions of Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Pablo Prigioni, according to Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. Smith was signed by the Rockets after the Pistons released him in December during the second year of his four-year contract. Brewer was acquired from the Timberwolves in a three-team trade during the same month, while Prigioni was dealt by the Knicks in February. “They have added great personnel,” Rivers said to the media covering the Clippers-Rockets playoff series. “When you think about the guys they added, Prigioni is a tough defensive guard and Corey Brewer has been amazing for them. Josh Smith has really been big, too.”

Northwest Notes: Leonard, Batum, Hood

Former lottery pick Meyers Leonard appears to have turned a corner for the Trail Blazers, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian details. That’s fortunate timing for him, as the client of recently hired agent Aaron Mintz is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, though usually such extensions are the domain of budding stars, like Damian Lillard, who also becomes extension-eligible in July. In any case, it’ll be an active summer for the Blazers, with LaMarcus Aldridge headlining several key free agents on the team, which has yet to commit any money for 2016/17, when the salary cap is set to spike. Here’s more on the Blazers and their Northwest Division rivals:

  • Nicolas Batum is still friendly with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, but while Batum sometimes thinks about what might have been if the Blazers hadn’t matched the offer sheet he signed with Minnesota in 2012, he tells Freeman, who writes in a separate piece, that he’s “very happy” in Portland. Then-Wolves coach Rick Adelman, since retired, was the main reason he wanted to play in Minnesota, Batum added. The small forward will be on an expiring contract next season.
  • It took a while for Rodney Hood to start to see consistent playing time, but last year’s 23rd overall pick is looking like a steal lately, as Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News writes in a look at the improvement that he and fellow Jazz first-rounder Dante Exum have made over the season. Hood is averaging 14.3 points in 27.0 minutes per game with 39.0% three-point shooting since March 10th.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman offers a peek behind the scenes at the Thunder front office, where a team of GM Sam Presti‘s hand-picked contributors work in a collaborative environment.

Western Notes: Batum, Rivers, Clippers

In an interview with Jorge Sierra of Hoopshype, Nicolas Batum said he likes what the Trail Blazers have done during this offseason and thinks a playoff berth is the most realistic goal for the team heading into this year. When asked about rumors that LaMarcus Aldridge had privately requested a trade from Portland, Batum had this to say: "I heard that too and I laughed when I read that. He doesn't want to get traded, he wants the team to get better. LaMarcus is a winner

Asked if Aldridge had told him that directly, Batum continued: I mean, I know that's what he wants. We had two bad seasons and missed the playoffs and wants the team to improve. I think he didn't ask for a trade. He wants to stay and win with the Blazers. He just wants a better team around him so we can get back to the playoffs."

Here's more out of the Western Conference tonight: 

  • Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times touches base with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on the team's high expectations this year, how he's reached out to his players this summer, what he wants to carry over from Vinny Del Negro last season, and what he'd like to change.
  • Kevin Arnovitz and Jordan Heimer of ClipperBlog join ESPN.com's Henry Abbott and Ethan Sherwood Strauss, along with Royce Young of the Daily Thunder to talk about how the Clippers will fare next season (ESPN LA's Clippers podcast).
  • J.A. Adande of ESPN praises the election of Chris Paul as union president, saying it "signals a level of commitment to the union by prominent players that hadn't existed in recent years." He also looks at what Paul has positively brought to the Clippers organization as a promising sign of how he can effectively lead the NBPA. 
  • Hoopsworld's Jabari Parker believes the Lakers can win between 44-47 games next season and thoroughly discusses how the team and the franchise overall should function in order to get back on track. 
  • The purple and gold also unveiled their new black alternate jerseys for next season (hat tip to USA Today). 

Odds & Ends: Robinson, Raptors, Batum

As we turn the calendar to 2013, two Eastern Conference contenders are prepared to welcome back players who missed the 2012 portion of the '12/13 season: Amare Stoudemire is expected to play his first game of the season tonight, while Avery Bradley is prepared to make his season debut on Wednesday. While the Knicks and Celtics prepare to welcome those guys back to their respective lineups, let's round up a few more notes from around the NBA….

  • All signs point to Nate Robinson's contract being guaranteed for the rest of the season by the Bulls, according to Dave van Dyck and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. The deadline for the Bulls to waive Robinson and avoid guaranteeing his deal is today, so as of tomorrow, the point guard will be in line for a full-season salary.
  • Eric Koreen of the National Post examines a number of question marks facing the Raptors as 2013 begins, including the futures of GM Bryan Colangelo and big man Andrea Bargnani.
  • Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts tells Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today that it's not fair to expect Nicolas Batum to drastically improve his game overnight just because he signed a lucrative new contract. However, as Zillgitt writes, Batum has been living up to the deal so far.

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."

Northwest Rumors: Thunder, Blazers, Batum

When GMs were polled recently on their thoughts about the upcoming season, the only two teams who received consideration to win the Western Conference other than the Lakers were the Thunder and Nuggets. The nod to Oklahoma City is no surprise, but the mention of Denver might have raised a few eyebrows, since the Nuggets haven't gotten out of the first round the past three years. Nuggets coach George Karl would be pleased if his team notched 50 wins, but with Andre Iguodala on board, he believes this year's squad has a chance to break the franchise record of 54 victories, as Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com writes. Here's the latest on a couple of the Nuggets' division rivals.

  • The Thunder have 14 players on fully guaranteed deals, and another four with partial guarantees, meaning the team will likely owe money to at least three players who don't make the team. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman gives reasons why he believes Daniel Orton will edge out DeAndre Liggins for the final regular season spot, adding that it's a decision that may pit GM Sam Presti against coach Scott Brooks (All four Twitter links).
  • Mayberry also believes there's a chance the Thunder could trade Daequan Cook or Lazar Hayward to free up a spot for both Orton and Liggins, but thinks finding a taker for either would be a tough task (All Twitter links).
  • With Demonte Harper and Dallas Lauderdale reportedly about to be waived and sent to the D-League, Mike Tokito of The Oregonian identifies Coby Karl, Adam Morrison and Justin Holiday as other camp invitees the Blazers will probably cut. 
  • Nicolas Batum signed for about $12MM less in his four-year deal than Eric Gordon is getting his four-year contract, but Blazers GM Neil Olshey hopes Batum can increase his scoring this year in a manner similar to 5.4 PPG jump Gordon took from his second year in the league to his third, writes Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com
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