NBA Rumor: Kent Bazemore Free Agency

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Bazemore spoke on that when he was introduced as a Laker while also revealing being snubbed by the Lakers fueled him. “It’s funny, you mention that,” Bazemore said in response to him and Anthony signing this summer. “That kind of lit a fire underneath me a little bit back in the day when I used to hold on to those kinds of things before I understood the business side of everything. But I’m just very fortunate to have another opportunity to play in the best league of basketball and one of the greatest organizations in any sport. I played with Carmelo up in Portland. “But it’s just cool being in a locker room with a bunch of guys that I’ve been playing with for a while, playing against for a while. It’s my 10th season and I’m here to win and I think a lot of guys are. So, I’m looking forward to seeing you know how that all comes into fruition.”

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Bazemore will have options, but he flourished with Sacramento and seemed to fit in with the personality of the team. When asked about the potential to stick around past the season, Bazemore made his position clear. “I know this is a good place for me because when I first got here, a couple of games in, I’m like, ‘man, if I would have started the season here…’” Bazemore told NBC Sports California late in the year. “When stuff like that creeps into your mind, you feel like it’s a good place. The vibe has been great, I love coming to work and I enjoy the people here. For sure man, it checks all the boxes.”

Kent Bazemore is remains an offseason “priority” to the Hawks despite the fact the team selected two wing players in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft. Bazemore, the starting small forward last season, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after the completion of two-year deal he signed. Hawks officials have said they would like to re-sign Bazemore, who will be do a significant pay raise after his first season as a starter. “I will say Kent Bazemore is absolutely a Hawks priority,” Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox said following the completion of the draft. “We love Kent. He is a huge part of what we do. I don’t think there should be any confusion as to how important Kent is to us.”

Bazemore himself sees room for growth, especially as he heads into the offseason with full health for the first time in a while. “Last year I was coming off an injury, and I had to shut it down a bit, but this year I’m healthy,” Bazemore said. “Finishing the season healthy is one of the most important things. I had a few nicks and bumps throughout the season, but for the most part, I played.” With good health affording him the time to work on his strength and skill this summer, Bazemore thinks he can amp up the athletic side of his game. “My body is used to the grind,” the 26-year-old said, “and now I can add to it. I can get my explosiveness back. I couldn’t really play above the rim like I wanted to this year, which I’m super capable of.”

“I would love to return here,” Bazemore said this week during an exit interview following the Hawks’ playoff loss to the Cavaliers. “I think the past two years I’ve taken a tremendous leap. Not only my professional year but personally. I’m growing more into myself and figuring out life. This place as a special place in my heart. I grew up right up the street in North Carolina. Super close to home. Not close enough. Has its perks here. The weather is great. Golf is great. God is great.”

Bazemore will get his share of free agent offers, but it appears he wants to remain in Atlanta. The Hawks will be in a position to make Bazemore a lucrative offer if they wish. “This is the best two years of my career as far as individually and professionally,” Bazemore said. “I’ve grown as a man and I’m four years in now. I’m coming into my own and it’s a beautiful thing. “Being able to be out there and play through your mistakes and have a coach [Mike Budenholzer] who takes it personal to coach you. He loves my competitiveness and I love how competitive he is. It’s a match made in heaven.”

These Hawks haven’t built a championship team at 31-27, but have a stable roster to compete for home-court advantage in the East. They’ll be proactive in attempting to re-sign Bazemore, but the franchise has decisions to make at point guard with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, and in its effort to retain All-Star Al Horford in free agency. “I want to win, period,” Bazemore told The Vertical. “For me, it’s more than just how much people pay. I look at state tax, cost of living. At the end of the day, I want to set myself up for when I retire, and I’m a forward thinker. I want to win at the end of the day. I can’t take a huge contract and win 17 games. That’s just not me.”

In an NBA that is placing increasing value on shooting, he’ll get paid. Much more than the $2 million he’s making this season. Bazemore’s official stance on his upcoming free agency is this: “Winning takes care of everything,” he said. “I’m just happy to be part of this (Atlanta) organization. The guys have given me an opportunity to play. With (DeMarre) Carroll leaving, they could have done a lot of things in free agency this summer. But, they believed in me and I’m very thankful for it. So right now I’m just trying to get as many wins as possible for this organization and everything else will fall into place.”

ESPN’s Zach Lowe asked a dozen executives how much Bazemore will command, and their answers ranged “from the mid-level exception, to $12 million, to ‘who the hell even knows?’” Bazemore thinks he’s still scratching the surface of what he can be, but hasn’t lost sight of how far he’s come. He remembers when few people knew what he could do, and when he didn’t know if he’d get to show it. “It’s fun, man,” Bazemore said. “For me, the fact that I get to wake up every day knowing I’m going to play against the best players in the world just brings a smile to my face.”
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