Nicolas Batum isn’t waiting around, will sign first good offer

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Nicolas Batum will be in demand this summer — he is nearly an elite defender on the wing, averaged 13.9 points per game last season and plays within himself on offense, and he shot 39 percent from three. Name a team that couldn’t use a guy like that?

The Spurs and other teams are reportedly interested in the Frenchman and the Blazers can forget about a hometown discount, Batum’s agent told Chris Haynes at CSNNW.com.

According to the agent for Portland Trail Blazers forward, Nicolas Batum, they will not be holding off on deals to allow the Trail Blazers to sign a couple of free agents before the team tends to his client, who’s a restricted free agent.

“The first good offer we get, we’re going with that,” Bouna Ndiaye of Comsport Management told CSNNW.com. “We’re not waiting for anything.”

You can still sense the bad blood there with the agent over contract extension talks that fell apart. But that will melt away if the money is right for both sides.

Timing will be key here. The Blazers would like to chase a couple free agents this summer, sign them, then be able to sign Batum over and above that. The Blazers have Batum’s Bird rights so they can go over the cap to get him in a way they can’t for others.

But if Batum gets an offer early in the free agent process the Blazers will only have three days to match, and if they sign him there will be a lot less room for free agents.

It would be interesting to see what Batum will be offered this summer. My guess would be three or four years in the $8 million range, which the Blazers likely match. But if the contract is larger, front-loaded or offered early in the free agent process Portland has a decision on its hands.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.