Blazers match offer for Nicolas Batum, downplay his previous comments
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The Minnesota Timberwolves pursuit of restricted free agent swingman Nicolas Batum has come to an end, but the bad feelings between the Wolves and Portland Trail Blazers apparently will continue.
The Blazers, as expected, matched the Wolves' reported four-year, $46.5 million (plus incentives) offer sheet that was extended to Batum. Blazers general manager Neil Olshey announced the decision Wednesday while with Portland's summer league squad in Las Vegas. The Blazers had until 10:59 (central time) Wednesday to match.
Olshey also made it clear that Batum's comments about wanting to play in Minnesota and not Portland were not reflective of the player's true feelings. Both Batum and his agent, Bouna Ndiaye, talked of his desire to be in Minnesota.
"Nic made a couple of comments at the behest of the Timberwolves and his agent," Olshey said, according to the Blazers' digital reporter.
Olshey said Batum called him at one point without his agent or the Wolves knowing to explain that he was told to say he wanted to play in Minnesota. The contact during the negotiating process between the Blazers and Batum was constant, according to Olshey.
Olshey also believes it was Batum's desire to negotiate directly with Portland.
As far as the contract details, the Wolves were thought to have stuck the Blazers with a big contract if they matched it. But Olshey explained that some of the bonuses in the original offer sheet were not allowed by the NBA and added, "The contract isn't as egregious as once thought/reported."
"Nicolas will absolutely live up to this contract," Olshey said.
Batum, meanwhile, arrived in Portland on Wednesday, will undergo a physical Thursday and hold his own press conference Friday. He had been spending time at home in France.
Batum, 23, posted career-high averages with 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. In 255 career games (202 starts), Batum has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds.
"We are disappointed that Nicolas Batum will not be on our team and wish him the best in the future," David Kahn, the Wolves president of basketball operations, said in a statment. "However, we were prepared for the possibility of this outcome and will move forward with our other plans.
"We are positioned well from a salary-cap standpoint and will continue to explore additional roster moves. We are confident that we will make the necessary transactions to improve our team for the coming season and beyond."
The Wolves are now expected to turn their attention to pursuing a combination of Boston restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma, Lakers unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill, shooting guards Courtney Lee (Houston) and Ronnie Brewer (Chicago) and possibly power forward Carl Landry (New Orleans).
Stiemsma, a center, is the most realistic of the Wolves' targets because Boston is over the salary cap and unlikely to match any offer he will receive. Hill, a power foward, either will land with the Wolves or return to the Lakers.
Darren Wolfson contributed