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Nicolas Batum shows selflessness by offering to come off Hornets’ bench

The 2019-20 season is going to be an important year for the Charlotte Hornets. It’ll be their first season since 2011 without star guard Kemba Walker at the helm. As such, head coach James Borrego has informed the entire team that he’ll likely shuffle and experiment with different line ups until he finds the perfect combination. Nicolas Batum, one of the team’s veterans, offered to come off the bench — showcasing a selfishness that’s rarely seen in the league.

Via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

“I told him I don’t care if I start or not. The way the young guys are playing, I told him keep the lineup like that,” Batum said after practice Monday. “Marvin (Williams) and I can be the two vets who help those guys off the bench.

In 11 seasons in the league, Batum has played 767 games — 711 of which were part of the starting five. He quickly established himself as a bonafide starter. And as he enters his 12th year — the fourth year of his five-year deal worth $120 million — he is willing to step back to make room for the Hornets’ young guys.

Some may see this move as a sacrifice. But Batum seems to be aware that he doesn’t need to be on the court to contribute. He is simply playing his role. His hefty contract doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to log in 30-35 minutes per night like he usually does. Letting the young players get some court action — as Borrego mentioned — will allow him to see which lineup works best. And in the long run, this move by Batum and the veterans will be very beneficial for the squad.

Perhaps what’s more interesting is that Batum is nearing the tail end of his career. By the time his hefty contract expires, he’ll be 31 — an age where he can still demand a good short-term deal before he retires. Most NBA players would fight for a starting position to eke out one more big deal before retiring. But Batum seems to be on a class of his own. Basketball is a team sport. Players — no matter how much money they’re sitting on or how many minutes they play per night — are expected to help the team in any way they can. By embracing a bench role, Batum is exactly doing what’s required of players in a team sport. And he’s more than happy to do that.