Wolfson: Bitter battle over Nic Batum cost Wolves at least one target
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Acknowledging their offer to restricted free agent Nic Batum -- four years, $46.5 million -- was for more than he's worth, the Minnesota Timberwolves thought at one point late last week they were making progress on a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.
A source with knowledge of the discussions said on Monday night that Blazers general manager Neil Olshey gave Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn names of players to work into a three-team deal. The list included Suns restricted center Robin Lopez, Bulls guard Kyle Korver (who since has been traded to Atlanta) and an unknown player from Denver -- possibly small forward Wilson Chandler.
Olshey made it clear he was looking for a wing-type/small forward or center. Kahn then engaged Phoenix and Denver in trade discussions, thinking he could find a way to get Batum.
The Wolves were willing to give up as much as three first-round picks in a Batum three-team deal, but they also wanted Portland to take back center Darko Milicic. The Wolves decided to use the amnesty clause on Milicic after those particular talks with Portland failed. Never did the Wolves offer three first-round picks for Batum straight up.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor even got on the phone with Olshey and passionately told him to just find a way to sign Batum himself, rather than waiting on a sign-and-trade. The Wolves were hesitant to handcuff their cap for 72-plus hours knowing they had no shot at their target.
The Wolves also thought they could use the Martell Webster trade fallout chip. The Wolves and Blazers have been talking for nearly two years, trying to find a happy meeting ground. At one point, the Wolves thought they had it, but the Blazers backed out at the last second.
The Wolves claim the Blazers knew Webster's back was messed up when they made the trade in 2010. The Wolves gave up forward Ryan Gomes and the draft rights to first-round pick Luke Babbitt.
Just recently, the Wolves filed an official complaint with the NBA. While no timetable is set, the Wolves expect the league to reward them with a second-round pick and/or money as a settlement. The Wolves were willing to forgive the Blazers on the Webster front if a Batum trade could've been worked out.
As for the Comcast Portland report that the Wolves offered forward Derrick Williams and two first-round picks for Batum, it never happened. Williams' name came up on the Portland end, but the Wolves were never willing to give up an asset like that while simultaneously overpaying Batum.
In the end, all efforts failed mostly because Olshey kept going back-and-forth, and Phoenix wasn't in love with the Lopez offers.
While the Batum attempt will ultimately end on Wednesday night at 10:59 p.m. Central when the Blazers match the offer sheet, this two-week ordeal prevented the Wolves from aggressively pursuing forward Luis Scola.
Amnestied late in the week by Houston, Scola was up for bid until Sunday. The Wolves didn't have the necessary cap space because of the Batum offer sheet and lost out. Kahn had what was called a productive talk with Scola's representative, but Scola ended up with the Suns.
• Look for the Wolves to get unrestricted free agent forward Jordan Hill unless the Lakers swoop in. It's down to those two teams. Hill had a lengthy discussion when in town with Kahn about his legal troubles. The Wolves feel comfortable signing him right now.
• If Hill does go back to Los Angeles, the Wolves could turn to free agent forward Carl Landry. They've talked to his representative. Landry played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman in Houston.
• The Wolves also continue to maintain dialogue with Anthony Randolph's agent.
• The Wolves expect to get restricted free agent center Greg Stiemsma. Boston is over the cap, so the Wolves feel like they will be able to structure the contract in a fashion such that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge won't be able to match.
• As for getting a wing, the Wolves will sign free agent Courtney Lee if the price is right. But they won't wait long after Thursday morning. If his price is too high, they will move quickly to sign free agent Ronnie Brewer. If Lee waits too long, he won't be a Timberwolf. O.J. Mayo, who chose the Mavericks on Monday night, was never seriously on the Wolves' radar. The Wolves called on Mayo early in free agency but didn't keep in touch in the last few days.
• The Wolves will soon announce their deal with free agent Alexey Shved. It'll be a three-year deal. He impressed the Wolves brass even further in a brief workout last week at Target Center.
• They will do the same with free agent Brandon Roy. While given no guarantee, the source said Roy has every intention of being the starting shooting guard.
• The Andre Iguodala dream can just about die. The source said the Wolves have done a ton of homework on him, and the feedback didn't all register positively. Because of that, they are reluctant to give up assets and pay him $30 million over the next two years. His contract has a player option for 2013-14, which he is expected to opt into.
• While the interest in Scola was genuine, the Wolves never had an interest in forward Elton Brand, who was claimed by the Mavericks.
• As reported previously, the Wolves and Grizzlies have a verbal agreement on a Wayne Ellington-Dante Cunningham trade. It'll be made official once the paperwork is sent into the league office.
• The Wolves' decision-making brass of Kahn, Adelman and Taylor will have another personnel meeting in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The NBA Summer League has Kahn and Adelman there, while Taylor will be there for a Board of Governors league meeting.