The Charlotte Hornets and unresticted free agent Nic Batum have come to terms on a new contract.
A source with knowledge of the situation told the Observer Friday morning that Batum has agreed to a five-year, $120 million deal.
No free-agent signing can become official before the NBA’s moratorium period ends July 7.
Batum came to the Hornets in a June 2015 trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Hornets sent shooting guard Gerald Henderson and power forward Noah Vonleh to the Trail Blazers to make this happen.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford made Batum a huge part of the Hornets’ offensive scheme, and Batum came through with season averages of 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Meanwhile, two other players in the Hornets’ rotation last season have found new homes. Center Al Jefferson has reportedly agreed to terms with the Indiana Pacers on a three-year, $30 million deal. Combo guard Jeremy Lin is reportedly headed to the Brooklyn Nets on a three-year, $36 million deal.
Jefferson was with the Hornets the last three seasons. Last season he split the starter’s role with Cody Zeller. Lin played a single season for the Hornets before opting out of next season on his contract to become a free agent. It’s likely Lin will become a starter with the Nets.
The Hornets were not coy in expressing their strong desire to re-sign Batum. General manager Rich Cho said Batum was the team’s top priority in remarks days after the Hornets season ended and repeated that position several times.
“Nic is a huge piece. He is our No. 1 priority,” Cho said in early May. “He knows that. We told him that in our exit interview. We love having him here, thought he did a great job.
“He had a few injuries, but overall he did a great job at both ends of the floor. He also did a great job in the locker room.”
Batum made it clear the day after the season ended that he found returning to Charlotte appealing. Batum said in May he had “unfinished business” with the Hornets after the Miami Heat eliminated them in a seven-game playoff series.
“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 like that. I like that they trusted me.
“It was a pretty cool year – the first time I got to play like I want to in eight years in the NBA.”
Previous to being traded, Batum had played his entire NBA career with the Trail Blazers. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets, 25th overall, in the 2008 draft before his rights were traded to the Blazers. Prior to entering the NBA draft, Batum played professionally in his native France.
This is the first time Batum has reached unrestricted free agency. When he was a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed him to a 4-year, $46 million offer sheet, which the Blazers matched.
The Blazers broke up most of their core last summer after it became clear LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t plan to re-sign there. Wesley Matthews signed with the Dallas Mavericks and Arron Afflalo signed with the New York Knicks after Batum was traded to Charlotte.
Batum’s Larry Bird rights transferred to the Hornets in the trade. That granted the Hornets several advantages in re-signing him. In addition to being able to exceed the salary cap, the Hornets could offer Batum slightly higher annual raises in a maximum-salary contract. Also, the Hornets could offer Batum a fifth season, where other suitors are limited to a four-year offer.
Under the NBA’s new $94 million salary cap, the Hornets could offer Batum as much as about $152 million in a five-season contract. Another team could offer Batum as much as about $113 million in a four-season contract.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell