Yesterday, forward Nicolas Batum agreed to return to the Los Angeles Clippers on a two-year, $22 million deal. Sure, to the rest of the league, this news might sound no different from other mundane contracts tied to veterans returning to their team.
To Batum, however, this was more than a mere business transaction between two parties. It was his way of thanking the Clippers and showing nothing less than love to the organization, the city, and the fans — he did owe one to the organization, after all. Well, sort of.
It’s 12:45am here in Paris and I have to get up at 4am for my 5am workout— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) June 30, 2022
I don’t care, I’m very excited to be back with this organization who welcome me at my lowest point.
Love you #ClipperNation#BatumBatallion Stand up ⚪️
Ahead of their 2020-21 campaign, the Clippers salvaged the Frenchman from what he refers to as his “lowest point,” adding him to the roster on a veteran minimum deal. And without this offer, Batum would’ve never have had all the success he enjoyed the past two years — or even been able to step foot on an NBA court again.
Going into that off-season, Batum was nothing more or less than the Charlotte Hornets’ failed project: albeit being offered a generous contract of $120 million in five years (then 44th-highest-paid player in the league), Batum missed 60 games. To make matters worse, in the few games that he did play, he logged less than 4 points each game on a substandard 35% shooting from the field and an even worse 29% from behind the arc.
So when the Clippers decided to scoop him up, it was no surprise that he didn’t receive the sweetest of welcomes to the team. Analysts took shots at the front office for pursuing a seemingly washed player that wouldn’t address the team’s big question mark on the Clippers’ lack of play-making. Most fans were not the happiest with what then seemed a pointless pickup. And the Clippers, yet again, were painted as the joke of the league.
Regardless, Batum wasted no time in silencing the doubters and led a tour de force from the get-go. His defensive versatility and three-point shot proved indispensable to the starting lineup, where he found himself in more than half of the 67 games (most in team) he played.
Batum finished the season with commendable numbers: 8.1 points, shooting over 40% from three, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists — and a few thousand new fans, of course. His second year was just as good as his first — in fact, he put up remarkably similar numbers and showed no signs of slowing down.
So we can expect him to still have plenty of gas left in his tank. His suffocating defensive presence, 14-year experience in the league, and dead-eye jumper are only a few of the things that he offers to the team. Just as important, is his undying loyalty for the organization and relentless efforts at improving himself and those around him.
That might be just what the Clippers need from Batum and his teammates should they want a chance at winning the Grand Prix that the NBA Finals is.