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How Nicolas Batum brought the smiles to start free agency

Why the Frenchman’s return is the perfect start to the L.A. Clippers summer

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Utah Jazz Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Hey Clips Nation, I’m Josh Sexton, a long-time Clippers fan from the UK. I’ve covered football for a number of years now (Liverpool are my team, if anybody is interested) but I’m really excited to branch out and write about my other sporting love. Looking forward to interacting with you all, and I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

Free agency is always a wild ride. It starts with photoshops from fans, touches of tampering in the interim, and is eventually signed, sealed, and delivered to our timelines by Woj and Shams trading bombs.

Many of the deals happen overnight for me, so I’ll wake up and start to scroll through my feed to find any mention of the Clippers contract news I need to get my mornings moving.

In the 2021 edition, us Clippers fans are still yet to get everything we are after - Kawhi and Reggie, if you’re reading this it’s not too late.

Serge Ibaka did get the good news rolling before the free agency circus came to town, opting into his player option to secure his services for some unfinished business in 2022, but there was another announcement you may have missed once the madness got going. Well, you didn’t if you’re as wrapped up in Lily Batum hysteria as the rest of Clipper Nation, but the sentiment stays the same.

Nicolas Batum’s two-year extension not only represented more astute business by a front office just recognised with an award for its face, Lawrence Frank, back in October, it also rewarded what was truly an unforgettable year for the Frenchman.

The numbers don’t leap off the box score for a guy who averaged over 27 minutes per game last season, but his 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game demonstrate that Nico really did it all on the floor for the Clippers.

His efficiency (46/40/83) showed the guts of a guy prepared to run, find his spot, and create space for himself to nail down timely bucket after timely bucket.

His playmaking has become an understated asset of the Clippers offence too, as once the ball gets swinging and goes in it’s likely to have had a French kiss en route, though it’s another aspect of his game which may not necessarily stand out on the stats sheets.

Best of all, Batum put it in on both sides of the ball, with big blocks followed by sneaky steals at crucial times, a factor which came into play heavily during a historic playoff run as an undersized center. Boris Diaw and Draymond Green would be proud.

What stands out most among any aspect of Batum’s game is his strength of character and how much he has bought into the culture of what is to be a part of Clipper Nation.

In that regard, many fans will say they haven’t loved a team like this — besides the underdog group which won our hearts back in 2018-19 — and Nico has been such a huge part of that bounce back spirit this time around.

He had his critics in Charlotte, but he never even had a bad word to say about them, instead using that career low as fuel to fire us to a first Western Conference final appearance. He fought for every possession, left it all out on the floor, and acknowledged the support of the fans whenever he was faced with a camera or a comment on social media.

Now the Batum Battalion can gear up for at least one more year of fun. Our Frenchman is coming back to the 213 in 2022 and it’s the perfect start to seeing this franchise run it back.

There’s still work to be done, but Nico shows us that if you put the work in, night in, night out, you’ll be able to wake up with a smile on your face when scrolling through the socials the next day.

It’s not often a guy comes along on a minimum deal and ends up with an entire army behind him.

Nic Batum did that.