Most fans NBA observers have not heard of Nicolas Batum. But the 23-year-old swingman has been the focus of the desires of his old team, the Portland Trail Blazers, and his potential new team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in a contentious battle for his services.
Each club is enamored with his talent as a diverse, 6-foot-8 shooter and outstanding perimeter defender. The T’Wolves signed Batum to a four-year, $46-million offer sheet that could go up to $50 million is certain incentives are met
The contract is a significant one for a player who has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in his first three NBA seasons.
Portland has three days to match the offer.
Minnesota president David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman said Batum is ideal for their more open offensive system and can grow alongside rising young stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
”We’re not in control of the situation,” Kahn said. ”I’m more of a glass-half-full person. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We’re prepared for every option.”
One would be hard pressed to find an option that hasn’t been considered while these two teams have gone back and forth over the last week.
The Wolves hosted Batum in the Twin Cities for a visit last week and he was impressed with what he heard. Agent Bouna Ndiaye said that his client was unhappy with how he was being used in Portland and would much prefer to play under Adelman and alongside Love and Rubio in Minnesota. They agreed to terms on an offer July 6, and spent the last 10 days trying to negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with the Blazers to make it happen.
But Olshey has been adamant that the Blazers would match any offer and were not interested in the assets the Wolves had to peddle in trade.
The process had several stops and starts, with Wolves owner Glen Taylor saying on Thursday the team planned ”to call their bluff” and submit the offer sheet after being unwilling to part with Derrick Williams or Nikola Pekovic to get the deal done. But league rules forced the Wolves to wait until swingman Martell Webster, who was bought out on Friday, cleared waivers to create enough cap room for the deal to fit on the Wolves’ books.