Agent: Nicolas Batum, Wolves agree
MINNEAPOLIS -- Restricted free agent Nicolas Batum has agreed to terms on an offer sheet with the Timberwolves and is hoping the Portland Trail Blazers either do not match the offer or execute a sign-and-trade to get him to Minnesota, Batum's agent told The Associated Press on Thursday night.
Batum and agent Bouna Ndiaye met with Blazers officials Thursday, and informed them the versatile swingman feels his best fit is in Minnesota. Ndiaye declined to give the terms of the agreement, but a person with knowledge of the deal said it was for four years and $45 million, with bonuses that could push it past $50 million. The person requested anonymity because the deal hasn't been completed.
Despite the agreement in principle, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher on Friday the Timberwolves have not provided an official offer sheet.
The Blazers have been adamant they will match any offer for Batum and are not interested in trading the 23-year-old native Frenchman. Ndiaye said Batum has great respect for the Blazers and their fans but believes playing for Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and alongside point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Kevin Love is the best situation for him.
"It was a very cordial meeting. There were no hard feelings," Ndiaye said. "So Nicolas basically talked about his four years with the Blazers, and he expressed that maybe it was time for him to look at a place where he could be more happy."
The offer cannot be signed until the moratorium ends July 11. Batum has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game over four seasons with Portland, part of the reason the Blazers see him as such a valuable piece moving forward.
"We appreciated the face-to-face meeting to get our message across," Blazers general manager Neil Olshey told The Oregonian. "And that message was that we intend to match any offer and we will not facilitate any sign-and-trade scenarios."
Batum visited Minnesota this week and met with owner Glen Taylor, team president David Kahn and Adelman, and was sold on the franchise's direction and the Twin Cities. Ndiaye said Batum is hoping the Blazers will do for him what the Suns did for Steve Nash, and grant his request to move on to a place where he can be happy and competitive.
"Nicolas said, 'I really respect the Blazers' organization, the Blazers' fans,'" Ndiaye said. "He even mentioned he really loved to be coached by (former assistant) Monty Williams, who was a mentor. But his choice, his heart went to Minneapolis."
Things started to sour for Batum and Portland in January when the Blazers didn't sign him to a long-term extension, saying at the time they considered him a big part of their future but wanted to retain salary-cap flexibility before reaching a deal with him. Ndiaye said Batum felt stifled in Portland's system, and wanted to spend less time standing in the corner and shooting 3-pointers, and more time breaking down defenders off the dribble and getting to the rim.
"Nicolas expressed this during his meeting with the Blazers," Ndiaye said. "He was never himself. He has mentioned this in the meeting. He said, 'I just want to be me. I don't want to stand in the corner. I'm a player with movement. I was locked up in the corner.' So he has expressed that for sure."
The one thing that could complicate Portland's plan to keep Batum is a reported max offer to Indiana center Roy Hibbert. If Hibbert takes the deal and Minnesota's offer is big enough, the Blazers could be hampered financially starting in 2013-14, when the new collective bargaining agreement levies much harsher fiscal penalties for exceeding the salary cap.
Wolves assistant Bill Bayno also is a big part of Batum's desire to play in Minnesota. Batum rents Bayno's house in Portland.
"Nicolas is really anxious to join and play with a great unselfish point guard, excited to play with a young team that thinks he is the missing piece," Ndiaye said. "He had a great feel with the coach Rick Adelman, and Nicolas thinks this is a system that will fit him."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.