Small forward Nic Batum, the Charlotte Hornets’ most attractive free-agent-to-be, said Monday he has "unfinished business" in the Queen City.
Translation: He’s predisposed to re-signing with the Hornets if the salary numbers are competitive.
"We should be playing tomorrow (in the Eastern Conference semifinals) and we’re pretty mad about that," Batum said of Sunday’s Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat.
"So this is unfinished business."
Batum had a career year with the Hornets after the trade that acquired him from the Portland Trail Blazers in June. Coach Steve Clifford said Monday there’s no question Batum is the top priority among five unrestricted free agents who were in the Hornets rotation this season.
The other four are Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin (assuming he exercises his opt-out), Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee.
Batum said throughout the season how much he enjoyed the responsibility and freedom Clifford gave him to be a focal point of the Hornets’ offense.
"When I came here they let me know they wanted me to be one of the (top) two options with Kemba" Walker, Batum said. "I liked that. I like that they trusted me.
"It was a pretty cool year. First time I got to play like I want to in eight years in the NBA."
What is so appealing about this situation?
"I think it’s a little bit of everything – the coaching staff, the organization, the city and the players, too," Batum said.
"We understand what we have to do to be successful and win games. We need to stay together no matter what. On some teams, guys just don’t get along together, particularly when a lot of guys are in their contract year. That can be difficult with guys worrying about their numbers.
"I don’t think we were like that and we had five or six (upcoming free agents). We were great in not thinking like that."
So is he predisposed to remaining a Hornet?
"Why not? I don’t know (what will happen in) a crazy summer for a lot of people. But why not?" Batum said.
"I want to talk to them first, for sure. July 1 will be a crazy day, but will Charlotte be my first call? Yes."
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell