No one expected Nic Batum to be the starting power forward for the Clippers when the season began, not even Batum himself. But he played so well as a replacement for Marcus Morris Sr. that Morris volunteered to come off the bench when he was healthy, a testament to the team’s chemistry.
And when the Clippers decided it was time to go back to their original plan of starting Morris, Batum also took that role change in stride. While the switch has created a significant improvement for Morris, Batum feels like he’s still doing the same thing, impacting the game however he can as a glue guy no matter when he happens to be on the court.
“I think I made the right choice, picked the right team,” Batum said Sunday. “Just try to go out there and play my game, I don’t try to do crazy stuff. They call me the glue guy, I just try to do what I do, go in and get open shots and make their life easier for the other guys. When you have a group like this, it’s easy for me to make their life easier because they’re so good at what they do. Just having fun right now, winning games, and I like my job.”
Batum had one of his best games of the season against Detroit, posting a team-high plus-29 in the box score, his best plus-minus of the year. He had 14 points on six shot attempts, nine rebounds, three assists, and three blocks has he demonstrated his ability to affect the game in a variety of ways.
His scoring was timely. Three of his four 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter: one when the Clippers were down six, the next when they were up one, and the final one when they were tied. The Clippers never relinquished the lead.
Batum’s defense also impressed. After going nine games without blocking a shot, he’s had nine blocks in the past 11 games, including three against Detroit. He credited the defense he has to play at home against his five-year-old son for the uptick.
“I’m just playing basketball with my son every day, so I block his shot pretty much 15 times a day, so that’s what I’m practicing,” Batum joked postgame. “He’s five years old though, so I’m kidding, but I think that helped me a lot to transfer that to a real NBA game, so I’m gonna keep doing that and block his shot 20 times in a day.”
The Clippers have come to depend on the lift Batum brings when he enters the game, and the younger guys follow his lead.
“His basketball IQ is insane. He’s always making the right play, he always makes the right read, defense or offense,” Ivica Zubac said about Batum postgame. “He plays hard. He’s guarding one through five. It’s tough what he does. He’s been in the league so long and he’s not the youngest dude, to do everything he does, nightly basis, a lot of minutes, it’s really incredible. He’s setting an example for all of us just how to be a professional and how to get ready every night and gotta do whatever it takes to get a win.”
Thanks to Batum’s performance, L.A. has now collected five wins in a row. It’s been a gift that his production hasn’t wavered even as the team’s lineups adjust from game to game. He keeps doing his job, and he and the Clippers are enjoying every minute of it.
More news for Monday:
- An interesting read from Paolo Uggetti about the G League Ignite path versus playing in college as a one-and-done.
- A-Rod is buying the Minnesota Timberwolves!
- A Phoenix Suns perspective on what the loss to the Clippers means for the postseason.
- Shane Young goes deep on the Clippers’ historically great shooting season.
- And finally, the Clippers are reportedly looking to sign Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day contract. Blake had some details on Ferrell, but it’s worth noting that the team has 15 players under contract right now (not including two-ways), so this deal would have to come after the 10-day for DeMarcus Cousins expires. Considering Ferrell still has to go through health and safety protocols, that timeline makes sense, but it suggests that Cousins either won’t come back or would have to wait until Malik Fitts’ 10-day is up.