Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Boston and Charlotte have worked on a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward that would land Celtics a trade exception, but Hornets have first been trying to find a third team for Nic Batum’s $27M contract to see if there’s a way to avoid waiving-and-stretching his money.
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Your thoughts on general manager Mitch Kupchak’s mindset regarding Batum’s expiring contract? — @rockdobbster on Twitter. Rick Bonnell: Of the three possibilities — Batum is traded, Batum does a buyout to be released or Batum is here through the end of the 2020-21 season — I still think the most likely outcome is Nic finishing out the contract here.
Batum has no trade value, but his contract might. That’s why I think it’s unlikely the Hornets will buy him out until or unless he’s still on the team after the next trade deadline. Then, much like Marvin Williams this year, I would expect the Hornets to buy out Batum and likely Zeller, too. Why wait? Because while Batum the player is barely back-of-rotation caliber at this point and might be the most grossly overpaid player in the league, at $27 million next season, he still could be the key to unlocking a trade.
In an exclusive Observer interview Tuesday, Batum offered an apology for not playing up to the level of his massive contract. He also said he was determined not to be an “a–hole” about the fact he never plays anymore. He praised the Charlotte Hornets for their reliance on youth in this losing season, even though it has come at his expense. “This franchise has got a bright future,” Batum said, “but I don’t think I’ll be part of it.”
Do you think Nic Batum will be traded this off season? — Taylor H. Rod Boone: Probably not because of the length (two years) and amount ($52 million) left on his contract. From what I understand, there were some discussions at the trade deadline about Batum, though I’m not exactly sure of the seriousness. They will look to move him if possible, but the framework would have to begin with something akin to what the Brooklyn Nets did in dumping Allen Crabbe to Atlanta. The Hawks have cap space and were able to absorb Crabbe’s $18.5-million salary — which comes off the books in 2020 — and received two first-round picks in the trade. They also sent Taurean Prince to the Nets in the deal. With all that in mind, I think it’s more likely he gets moved either at the trade deadline next season or sometime next summer as his deal gets closer to expiring.
Batum was a major topic of conversation when the players, Borrego and general manager Mitch Kupchak met with media post-season. I asked Borrego last week where Batum fits going forward. “Rick, I don’t really know,” Borrego replied.
Nicolas Batum — Hefty contract, $24 million this year and $25 million in 2019-20. “I know he’s been playing badly but he has some similarities to Ariza,” said one scout.
Nicolas Batum on trade rumors: “Like every year. I was asked this question recently and I said that the only time my name was not in the rumor mill was when I was actually traded. The rumors anyway, it’s okay, it’s all forgotten the next day. We are often in the rumor mill and nothing happens. I learned to live with it. It does not bother me.”
Teams have expressed interest, including some contenders, but the Hornets would most prefer to put the money remaining on Kaminsky’s $3.6 million deal with another big salary. Charlotte, according to league sources, is desperate to get out of the two years and $52 million remaining on Nicolas Batum’s salary, and at least one team was told that Kaminsky could be had if Batum were included. The Hornets would also like to move the $17 million owed in 2019-20 to center Bismack Biyombo. That’s a tough sell, getting another team to take that money in order to acquire a guy who will be a restricted free agent in the summer and does not appear to fit into his coach’s plans. Charlotte would need to lower its asking price.
A source familiar with the situation said so far the Hornets’ discussions with other teams involving Kemba Walker have been more exploratory than necessarily on a fast track to a deal. In order to trade away this team’s best and most marketable player, the Hornets would probably have to accomplish at least two agendas: Attach a trade for Walker to discarding a problematic contract (Nicolas Batum’s five-season, $120 million deal, for instance), plus acquire assets in the form of one or more young prospects and/or first-round picks.
One thought — if the Knicks get into the sweepstakes — is giving up their 2019 first-round pick along with Ntilikina in hopes of Charlotte taking on the remaining years of Joakim Noah’s contract. (The Hornets can always use the stretch provision on Noah after the season). Another NBA source added that the Hornets will be asking teams to take back one of their larger contracts like, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, making a Knicks’ match even more unlikely.
The Hornets had already made available Nicolas Batum (four years, $100 million), Dwight Howard (two years, $47 million), Marvin Williams (three years, $42 million) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (three years, $39 million), league sources said, but those players and their contracts are largely unattractive in the marketplace.
If things keep going how they are, could you see them trying to trade (veterans) like Marvin (Williams) and maybe (Nic) Batum to get some youth and maybe picks? Rick Bonnell: I’m sure they’d explore any other team’s interest in the veterans, but that would be true if the Hornets were on track to win 50 games. No one on this roster – even Walker – is so good he couldn’t be traded. However, this isn’t baseball, where the trade deadline sets a stark line between buyers and sellers. If you trade away Williams’ or Batum’s contract, you’re going to have to take back a contract another team wants to discard. You probably won’t get a treasure chest of young talent and/or draft picks. So you would have to explore such options warily.
The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Hornets have to move off a salary, with forward Nic Batum, who can’t seem to get and stay healthy or swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being candidates. Of the two, Kidd-Gilchrist is owed the least amount of money—$13 million a year for the next three years, which isn’t exactly a bargain.
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January 23, 2021 | 7:04 pm EST Update
Ira Winderman: Wait, Erik Spoelstra laughed during a pregame presser. He was asked if having had coached a Big 3 gave him insight on how to now slow a Big 3, he simply replied, “No.” And, yes, laughed. And with that, pregame media session ended.
Omari Sanfoka II: Dwane Casey on Saddiq Bey’s slump after a hot start: “Nothing to be alarmed about. The young man is working his behind off … there’s always going to be a leveling off period and that’s what he’s going through right now. He’ll bounce back.”
Dane Moore: Ryan Saunders said 24 to 28 minutes is a “fair range” to expect for Ricky Rubio tonight who is in his second game back from COVID protocols. Jordan McLaughlin will be backup PG. And Jaylen Nowell will be third-string if that is needed.