It’s rare for a player to commit to Team USA when they’re a free agent. At such a pivotal point in their pro career, they often don’t want to risk injury before signing a new contract.
International players don’t really have that luxury. The talent pools of their teams aren’t as deep, so if an NBA player opts out, the drop-off is significant.
This season presented an even bigger challenge because the timing of the Olympics directly coincided with the start of free agency. Players like Evan Fournier, Patty Mills, Gabe Vincent, and Isaac Bonga all suited up for their international teams with their contract statuses in flux. Not only did they run the risk of injury, but they had to connect with their agents to negotiate new deals from other side of the world.
Nic Batum was one such free agent who found himself in a complicated situation. As he told Joe Vardon of The Athletic, he didn’t want to drag the process out and distract from his play in Tokyo:
As for Batum, 32, he always wanted to rejoin the Clippers, because he said they gave him a fresh start on his career last season. “Of course, the last 48 hours, it’s in your head,” Batum said. “Just this morning for one or two hours (I was on the phone) with my agent, ‘Get a deal done. … OK, we’re good?’ Now I am back to the Olympics. That was a crazy day, for sure.”
It sounds like the Clippers may have been unintentional beneficiaries of this expedited operation. Batum was rumored to have interest from other teams, including a strong pursuit from the Warriors. But switching teams while playing in the Olympics would have put some strain on Batum’s performance, and he clearly was trying to avoid shifting his focus.
That isn’t to say that the Clippers weren’t the best fit for Batum, or that he didn’t want to stay in Los Angeles. But the circumstances certainly aligned for a swift resolution, and the Clippers are better off for it. The Clippers learned last season that Batum is one of a kind. Even in free agency, Batum does things his own way.
More news for Wednesday:
- The Clippers essentially sat out of the second day of free agency. The only player they were tied to, DeMar DeRozan, ended up with the Bulls, in case you missed it on the Clips Nation free agency tracker.
- In this year’s offseason, Rob Mahoney notes that it pays to be old.
- The Basketball Tournament ended Tuesday with a wild finish in the final, a game-winning 3-pointer by Keifer Sykes to earn his team $1 million. Even better? Sykes signed a deal with the Indiana Pacers right afterwards.
- Have you seen the robot making jump shots at the Olympics basketball tournament? Ben Golliver has CUE5’s backstory.
- Olympic men’s basketball continues tonight, as Batum’s French team takes on Luka Dončić and the Slovenians at 4 a.m. PT.