NBA Rumors: Nic Batum returns to 76ers after retirement scare
After a one-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night, the Philadelphia 76ers have rattled off four straight wins. The end of the James Harden era has been mostly productive, with Tyrese Maxey making The Leap and Joel Embiid continuing his MVP ways under Nick Nurse. Kelly Oubre Jr. has settled comfortably into a secondary scoring role, Tobias Harris is playing his best basketball in years, and the new collection of role players from LA — Robert Covington, KJ Martin, Marcus Morris, and Nic Batum — call all contribute.
One notable absence in recent Philly games, however, has been Batum. Nurse has worked the new arrivals into the rotation slowly, with neither Martin nor Morris seeing any real minutes during their first two games with the Sixers. Covington was part of the rotation in Saturday's win over Phoenix. He played 18 minutes, which tied Furkan Korkmaz for the most off the bench. But, Batum is probably the best player the Sixers got back, and he hasn't even been on the bench.
That's because Batum was attending to a "personal matter," as the team put it. There was speculation that Batum, who loved Los Angeles and was expected to retire at season's end, might actually hang up his shoes early instead of moving his family across the country for one year in Philadelphia.
Well, those concerns were laid to rest on Sunday. Batum has reported to the team and is expected to be available for Monday's game against the Washington Wizards, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.
Batum averaged 6.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on .420/.391/.708 splits in 21.9 minutes last season. He appeared in 78 games (19 starts) and was a foundational piece of the second unit. He won't fill up the stat sheet, but the Sixers can expect reliable 3-point shooting and heady team defense from the 34-year-old.
Philadelphia essentially swapped Harden and P.J. Tucker for a collection of rangy, multi-positional wings who can space the floor and defend (for the most part) at a high level. Batum continues to impact winning with his high basketball I.Q. and refined skill set. The Sixers will benefit from his contributions, even if he's only there for a short time.