The five-year, $120M deal Batum signed in the summer of 2016 remains the largest ever given out by the Hornets. After putting up decent numbers during the past three years, he lost his starting job this season and has been stuck on the end of the bench as Charlotte opted for a youth movement.
“I apologize to the people here, because they put so much faith in me," he said. "And it didn’t go well. It didn’t work out. But what do I have to do? Because I’m still here.”
Batum has appeared in 22 games this season, but coach James Borrego didn’t use him at all in February. The last time he saw the court was in a January 24 game played in his native France.
Fowler points out that Batum remains a supportive member of the team and is serving as a mentor to a roster filled with first- and second-year players. As a veteran, he has interceded with officials on behalf of his teammates and estimates he has saved the Hornets from about a half-dozen technical fouls. On being a guy his teammates can look up to, Batum said:
“I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be that guy who’s like, ‘OK, let’s go out tonight. Coach sucks. Don’t show up. You shoot 25 times a game; don’t listen to him.’ No. I won’t do that. I don’t need that. They don’t need that.”
At age 31, Batum figures to remain in a teaching role through the end of next season. He has another year left on his contract, and his $27.13M salary makes him nearly impossible to trade. Although the Hornets appear headed to their fourth straight year out of the playoffs, Batum believes the young core will get there soon.