Nicolas Batum found his game again in Charlotte, so he wasn't about to go looking elsewhere once he hit the open market.
Batum agreed to terms on a five-year, $120 million contract with the Hornets early Friday morning, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be signed until July 7.
The Frenchman gradually solidified himself as a superb two-way player over his first six seasons in Portland. But his seventh saw a major drop-off in production, and Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey shipped him to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson before last season.
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Playing for Hornets coach Steve Clifford, Batum was reborn. He averaged career highs in points (14.9) and assists (5.8) and also grabbed 6.1 rebounds a game for the surprising Hornets, who won 48 games before losing to Miami in seven games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Nicolas Batum holds a player option in the fifth season of his new Hornets deal, sources tell The Vertical. $120M.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2016
Batum gives the Hornets a pretty significant discount on a per year basis. Could allow them to keep an extra FA. https://t.co/JsGD4K3jhB— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 1, 2016
Batum rediscovered his two-way, do-everything mold in Charlotte, meshing with Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams to give the Hornets some energy and edge, pushing them back into the playoffs for the second time in Clifford's three seasons.
Batum's defense on the wing was a huge part of Charlotte's success and his ability to guard multiple positions helped the Hornets match up against a variety of opponents.
As the season came to a close, Batum made no secret of his desire to remain in Charlotte. He was widely viewed as one of the most coveted free agents on the market, the kind of versatile veteran that could make a huge difference on any team he joined.
Hornets GM Rich Cho made it clear from the start that the feeling was mutual and owner Michael Jordan said he would spend the money necessary to help the team continue to build on the momentum of last season.
Rather than entertain a number of suitors and mull leaving for another offer, Batum made the decision to stay put about four hours after the market opened.
"We got a deal!" Batum tweeted.
We got a deal! #BuzzCity 🐝— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) July 1, 2016
The contract will carry Batum, who turns 28 in December, right through his prime years and give the Hornets a much-needed veteran presence to build alongside of the dynamic Walker.
With Batum in the fold, the Hornets can now turn their attention to other free agent matters. Williams, Jefferson, point guard Jeremy Lin and shooting guard Courtney Lee are all free agents as well, and the Hornets are also in the market for more shooting, depth and toughness to compete in the East.