The Blazers matched Minnesota’s 4-year offer sheet worth more than $45 million for Nicolas Batum, the restricted free agent, keeping the 23-year-old swingman in Portland just like General Manager Neil Olshey said they would from the beginning.
Portland’s move to keep Batum finished a long and infrequently bitter negotiation between the Blazers and the Timberwolves, who were satisfied the French player was the missing piece in a young core that already has Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
”We are disappointed that Nicolas Batum won’t be on our team and wish him the best in the future,” Minnesota GM David Kahn said. ”However, we were prepared for the possibility of this end result and will go forwards with our other plans.”
Kahn had had an interest in Batum for one or two years and was assertive when free agency opened at the start of this month. The Minnesota Timberwolves hosted Batum in the 1st week of July and agreed to terms on an offer sheet on July 6, with Batum’s agent saying his client very much preferred Minnesota over staying in Portland.
The Wolves were wishing that the size of the deal joined with Batum’s stated desire to play under Wolves coach Rick Adelman and alongside Love and Rubio would be sufficient to persuade the Blazers to consent to a sign-and-trade to bring the flexible swingman to Minnesota.
The 2 teams passed a week and a half in negotiations, but never could find commonly held ground. Not keen to part with Derrick Williams and a bevy of draft picks, the Wolves searched far and wide to add a 3rd team to the mix that would have added some enticing pieces for the Blazers to pull the trigger.
The Wolves offered multiple 1st-round draft picks and Chicago Bulls shooter Kyle Korver in one version of the deal, but that was rejected and Korver instead was traded to Atlanta.
Even when it became clear that a sign-and-trade wasn’t going to happen, the Wolves pushed on. Owner Glen Taylor expounded that they planned ”to call their bluff’ ‘ and file the offer sheet with the league to see if Olshey was serious about matching any offer. After making one or two moves to form the essential cap room, the Wolves submitted the offer sheet to the league on Sun., giving the Blazers 3 days to match.
Batum, who is entering his 5th season and averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last year, and the Blazers also hit a road block in January, when Portland declined to increase a long-term contract. The Blazers told Batum all along that they wished to bring him back, but also wanted the cap contentious to make other moves.
Olshey said he has been in constant contact with Batum, talking nearly every day through the process and wasn’t worried about Batum’s stated desire to play in Minnesota. Odds
”He’s always voiced a desire to come back to Portland,” Olshey claimed. ”His agent did what he needed to do, which is get him the best possible deal for his client. He feels like he did that. Nicolas got his deal, we got our player back and we’ll move on.”