- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - General manager Rich Cho made it clear the Charlotte Hornets want to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum to a long-term contract.

Cho, speaking at his season-ending press conference Wednesday, called re-signing Batum the team’s top priority after the Hornets finished tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte, the East’s sixth seed due to tiebreakers, lost to third-seeded Miami in seven games in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

“He knows that. I told him that in our exit interviews,” Cho said of Batum. “We love having him here and he did a great job this year. He had a few injuries, but overall he did a great job on both ends of the floor. (He was) also great in the locker room and I think Nic wants to be here as well.”

Batum indicated as much on Monday after clearing out his locker.

“My first goal will be to be here with the Charlotte Hornets,” Batum said.

Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points along with 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Hornets during the regular season, although his production was limited in the postseason due to a foot injury. Given the increase in the NBA salary cap this summer, it is conceivable Batum could command a maximum salary in excess of $20 million per year.

NBA free agency begins July 1.

Charlotte’s other potential free agents include three other starters - center Al Jefferson, forward Marvin Williams and guard Courtney Lee. Also, guard Jeremy Lin, the team’s sixth man, is expected to opt out of his player-option contract and hit the free agent market. He’s due to make $2.2 million next season, but clearly outperformed that contract.

Cho said the goal is to “bring back as many guys as possible” from a team that had outstanding chemistry on and off the court.

“If you look at a lot of the better teams around the league like Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, one thing that’s helped them over the years is continuity and we want to maintain some sense of continuity,” Cho said. “At the same time we don’t want to be complacent.”

Cho is confident the team will re-sign Batum.

“He definitely wants to be here,” Cho said. “He’s grown to like the city. As you know, he just had a child and his family like it here. He loves the coaching staff. He loves his teammates and I think he likes his GM. He wants to be here (and) we want him here.”

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