Rampant player movement is one of the defining features of the contemporary NBA, with teams moving virtually anyone in the pursuit of future flexibility and the accrual of assets. With that in mind, it's not shocking to hear that franchises and players alike often look ahead to potential future destinations even when they're under contract with another squad. It's only human nature.
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However, one recent report of such interest happened to rub the named player the wrong way. Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote a typically in-depth piece on the state of the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, and it included this note on offseason addition Nicolas Batum:
Batum is an impending unrestricted free agent on a borderline playoff team, diving into an unprecedented cap frenzy in which two-dozen suitors could offer $20 million per season. Batum’s people have already made noise about how much Batum would like to play in Toronto, a city that appeals to his international roots, per several league sources. He is a flight risk, even though both [general manager Rich] Cho and Chad Buchanan, the team’s assistant GM, know Batum well from their days in Portland.
This news did not make Batum happy, so he tweeted out these photos:
Here's hoping Batum starts a trend of referencing SNL sketches to combat rumors and reports. What I wouldn't give to see Kevin Durant shoot down rampant speculation with a killer Gilly impression. Everyone loves Gilly!
Humor aside, Batum's message seems to be that he is committed to Charlotte. We will have to see how long that remains the case. As Lowe notes, Batum could make a great deal of money no matter whether he sticks with the Hornets, who can pay him more than any other team, or jumps elsewhere. It's entirely possible that he will find a better fit in free agency and opt to leave a franchise with an uncertain future (which is the subject of Lowe's piece).
However, the very real possibility that Batum could move to the Raptors does not mean that his tweets are somehow a sham. The state of the NBA almost requires that each player occupies two contradictory mindsets at once — that they are in a great situation with their current team but must be open to other options. It's not clear that Batum even has a place in Toronto — they just signed DeMarre Carroll to a long-term deal and figure to keep DeMar DeRozan around for a while — but it's not crazy that he would think highly of that organization while simultaneously valuing his opportunity in Charlotte.
These stances are only mutually exclusive if we choose to believe that players must remain fully loyal at all times, which is a foolish proposition given how quickly their prospects change. After all, Batum seemed to have a pretty good spot with the Portland Trail Blazers before injuries hit in the final months of 2014-15, LaMarcus Aldridge bolted in free agency, and the front office decided to go into rebuilding mode. Why wouldn't he consider other destinations with just a year left until he hits the open market? A professional who only imagines himself in one job or organization forever must also be ignorant of the precariousness of his position. That's true not only because of the control Batum's employers have over his place on the roster, but his own ability to steer his career in the best direction available. Anything else would be irresponsible.
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