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Nicolas Batum apologizes for not living up to Hornets contract

Hornets forward Nicolas Batum

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 22: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on February 22, 2020 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The Hornets signed Nicolas Batum to a five-year, $120 million contract in 2016.

Given his leverage, I thought he could have gotten even more – maybe even the max.

The Hornets had just traded a promising-looking recent lottery pick (Noah Vonleh) to the Trail Blazers for Batum. Batum played well in 2015-16, helping Charlotte to its best season since re-emerging as the Bobcats. The Hornets called Batum their top priority entering the offseason. The salary cap had just skyrocketed. Plenty of other teams had cap room and interest in Batum.

But Batum turned into an anchor, not a bargain.

His production declined. Charlotte hasn’t return to the playoffs. Kemba Walker left.

Batum, via Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer:

“I apologize to the people here,” Batum said, “because they put so much faith in me. And it didn’t go well…. It didn’t work out. But what do I have to do? Because I’m still here.”
“This franchise has got a bright future,” Batum said, “but I don’t think I’ll be part of it.”

Where’s the apology from former Hornets general manager Rich Cho, who signed Batum to this deal? Where’s the apologizes from Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who approved the deal?

Nobody forced anyone to sign Batum. He took the offer put in front of him.

It’s funny how we tend to blame players for bad contracts. Heck, it says something that we call them “bad contracts.” For Batum, this is a great contract.

Even in this paradigm, players rarely apologize for not producing commensurate with their salary. Batum is an outlier.

He also has a $27,130,434 player option for next season. When he says he won’t be part of Charlotte’s future, does he mean he’ll decline that option? I highly doubt it. He’s sorry. Nobody is that sorry.

More likely, the 31-year-old Batum will collect that salary and just continue not to fit the Hornets’ vision. They’re clearly rebuilding around younger players. Perhaps, Batum will get traded as an expiring contract. If not, Batum – who hasn’t played in six weeks – will continue to ride Charlotte’s bench and collect checks.

At least, as he says in the interview, he’s not making waves about getting demoted. If nothing else, all that money got the Hornets someone who understands professionalism.