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Clippings: Nic Batum drowned out the boos and delivered again for the Clippers

It’s been night and day for Batum this year compared to his last season in Charlotte.

Los Angeles Clippers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It was clear when Nic Batum played the Hornets back in March, the first time he’d faced off against his former team of five years since they waived him in the offseason, that there was some lingering resentment on Batum’s side. Batum channeled that into 11 points, a March-best plus-19 in the box score, and a convincing Clippers win.

Thursday was the first time Batum returned to Charlotte, and the fans made it clear that they had heard his comments, and they also weren’t thrilled about the transformation of Batum from a player who looked like he was washed to one who contributed meaningfully to a championship team. The Hornets crowd booed Batum every time he touched the ball, and especially loudly when he was at the foul line.

Once again, Batum channeled that energy productively. He finished with 11 points, only his second double-digit scoring effort in the past 10 games. And Nico Gobert resurfaced, as Batum had one of his increasingly frequent transition blocks on former teammate Cody Zeller, resulting in a jump ball instead of two points for Charlotte.

Afterwards, Batum said all the right things about how special it was to come back to Charlotte for the first time, just as it was when he returned to Portland. But he’s also moved on from the bitterness of his exit, and the reason for that is pretty clear: Batum is going to be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2016.

“That is why I came here,” Batum said. “When I got let go, I got a couple of choices and I felt like this one was on a good team, I got a chance to do something special, and that is why I came here. Only two games away to start like a big dance so I think we are all excited. Can’t wait.... It’s going to be a battle for a lot of teams. It is going to be great.”

The Clippers are equally excited to have Batum, more so when he performs at this level. The Hornets have moved on, and so has he.

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