Clippers Nicolas Batum reportedly plans to decline the $3.3 million second-year player option and become a free agent, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Despite the move, the French forward has been relatively forthright about his desire to stick with the team that revitalized his career two seasons ago
“I love the team,” Batum said shortly after the Clippers’ season-ending loss in the play-in game against New Orleans on April 15. “I’ve been here for almost two years now. I was almost out of this league. It’s been two different years. But I loved it, I loved it. I love it here. That coach, those guys. I mean, it’s tough today, but it’s going to be fun next year.”
He also spent time this past weekend answering fan questions on Twitter, including one from @clippers_steve, who asked: What made you love the @LAClippers organization?
Batum’s response: “Y’all welcomed me and my family with open arms at the lowest point of my career.”
Y’all welcomed me and my family with open arms at the lowest point of my career https://t.co/6RJjuXHlKS
— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) June 18, 2022
After Batum’s reemergence – rebounding gallantly from afterthought in Charlotte to key cog in L.A.’s Western Conference finals run in 2021 – attracted interest from a handful of teams last offseason, including Portland, Golden State, Miami and Indiana, he was the first free agent to sign with the Clippers last offseason.
They held Batum’s non-Bird rights, which meant they could re-sign him for 120% of his minimum salary – inking him to a two-year, $6.5 million deal, which left them with a $5.9 taxpayer exception to fill out the roster ahead of last season.
Now, after Batum started 54 of 59 games and averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in his 14th NBA season, the Clippers have his early Bird rights and can sign him to a contract of up to $10.9 million, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Such a contract must be for a minimum of two years and cannot include (if those early Bird rights are utilized) a player option after the first year.
That could give the Clippers an advantage over other potential contenders who might come calling but could offer only a taxpayer mid-level exception worth $6.39 million. Teams with a full mid-level exception available a deal worth $10.35 million.
Batum was the lone Clipper with a player option for the 2022-23, but L.A. also has a team option call pending before free agency begins June 30 on center Ivica Zubac, who stands to make $7.5 million next season.
Before landing in L.A., Batum was waived with the stretch provision in 2020 by Charlotte, with which he’d signed a five-year $120 million deal in 2016. That means he’ll earn $8.9 million from the Hornets in the 2022-23 season.
After he helped the Clippers remain competitive without their injured stars Kawhi Leonard (who missed all season recovering form a torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Paul George (who missed much of it healing from a torn elbow ligament), Batum expressed enthusiasm about the team and its future.
“That was fun,” he said in April. “We showed, like, we can be a good team without our two top-10 guys. That’s what I like. That’s what we showed this year. We can do anything. We can win games. We can be down 25 and find a way to win. We can be down 35 on the road, win a game without two top-10 guys. We almost get to the playoffs without two top 10 and the best shooter in the league percentage-wise.
Then, thinking about the team with Leonard and George, he added, again: “It will be fun next year.”
Making the game of basketball much easier https://t.co/rHHkKLWckq
— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) June 19, 2022