Nicolas Batum reiterates his 'first choice' remains joining Wolves
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Hours before the NBA's transaction moratorium was scheduled to end, Nicolas Batum reiterated his preference is to play this coming season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In an interview with NBA.com, the 23-year-old French forward said he has nothing against the city of Portland or the Trail Blazers, whose general manager said last week he will match any offer sheet for the restricted free agent and won't consider a sign-and-trade.
"I'm a restricted free agent," Batum told the website. "I know the situation. Anywhere I sign, the Blazers are going to match. But my first choice was, and is, Minnesota. That's where I want to play and that's where I want to put my family."
After becoming frustrated last season in former Blazers coach Nate McMillan's slow-down system, Batum specifically mentioned the opportunity to play with Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio and under coach Rick Adelman, whom Batum feels "will play me the way I ask to play. Last year was tough for all of us and I think I need a new start. I think I need something else."
The Wolves reportedly finalized an offer sheet that is worth $45 million over four years to Batum, who averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 59 games (34 starts) last season, his fourth in the NBA. He returned to France on Friday to train with the national team and spoke to NBA.com from Madrid, where he was preparing for a friendly match against Spain.
A source told NBA.com that Batum didn't want sign the offer sheet because he was worred the Blazers would match, as Portland GM Neil Oshey reportedly told him last week. Olshey wouldn't confirm his intention in speaking to Portland reporters on Monday.
Free agency was scheduled to begin at 11:01 p.m. Central on Tuesday, and Batum expressed optimism his old team will work out something with what he hopes will be his new team. A source told 1500ESPN.com last week the Wolves were working on a three-way deal for Batum and were committed to exhausting all options to try to get him.
"I need a new situation and a new start," Batum said. "I feel like it's the best situation for me in Minnesota. I think that's a great group of guys. This team can be interesting next year. It could be fun."