May 10

Hollinger: Trail Blazers Understand Restricted Free Agency

By caseyholdahl

Nicolas Batum's status as a restricted free agent is one of the hottest topics of conversation in Portland this offseason. Will the team now have to overpay to retain him? What other teams are interested? How much is too much? And so on and so forth.

But I think what fans question the most is the decision to let Batum enter restricted free agency in the first place. It's a fair question to ask. If the team like Nic, and if Nic likes the team, why not just settle on a number and skip the whole process all together? Chad Buchanan addressed that question in detail a few weeks ago on Trail Blazers Courtside, but I think some might have written that explanation off as something a general manager has to say to validate the team's course of action.

But there are people outside of Trail Blazers HQ, people who actually understand how free agency in the NBA works, know the benefits of restricted free agency for teams trying to retain their players without breaking the bank.'s John Hollinger notes as much in a chat today on
Will (Portland)
Assuming Portland will have to over pay to keep Batum. Any reason why they shouldn't?

John Hollinger
Not sure they'll need to. As a restricted free agent for a franchise that most assume will match, other teams will be reluctant to tie up their cash waiting for Portland's response while other players are disappearing off the market. That's the leverage restricted free agency gives, unfortunately a lot of teams still don't get this and get played by agents into giving what are basically unrestricted free-agent type deals.
Exactly. Why negotiate against yourself? Restricted free agency gives you the option of letting the market, not the player, his agent, or even the team, set the price. There are rare situations -- the Wesley Matthews' restricted free agency with Utah, for instance -- in which a team can get burned by not locking up a player in advance of the free agent signing period, but when you've got cap room and a desire to re-sign said player, as the Trail Blazers currently do, there's little to no benefit of NOT going into restricted free agency.

Also worth mentioning that Hollinger questions scuttlebutt pertaining to San Antonio's interest in signing Batum as a free agent this summer, or at least he questions the economic feasibility of such a move.
A lot could happen roster-wise between now and then, but as it stands right now, Hollinger is dead on. We'll see this summer.


  1. Exactly! It amazes me how so many fans and even the media can run with all these speculated rumors (I guess that is the medias job though in a way) but the fact is the Blazers front office has made some very, very smart decisions with our March cleanup and letting Batum go into restricted free agency. We will be able to accomplish in one year what it normally would take nearly 3-5 years to do! To me, that is very exciting ;-)

    by daddylogan on 5/10/2012 10:39 AM
  2. While what Hollinger said is true, it only takes one team to pony up the big contract to Nic for the Trail Blazers to be put in a bind.

    by DHawes22 on 5/10/2012 11:08 AM
  3. Casey: I have checked out much of what Chad said about Nic QO. By doing his last since they have the Bird rights on him they can go over the Cap space to sign him leaving all the cap space to spend for more talent. What some fans doesn't realize is there is already, I think a 5.5 Mil cap hold on Nic, that is already added into the cap, so say if somebody offers him a bigger contract then the QO, then the Blazers only have to match the price over 5.5; so say another team offers him 10 mil to match it would only cost Portland 4.5 mil over cap and under the cap threshold. If nobody offers him a suitable offer, the blazers after FA can make him their own offer.
    What is sweet about that is they make Batum a QO the 1st of July, as long as Batum doesn't sign the QO, just the 5.5 hold is on the books; although other teams can talk to Nic they cannot offer him a contract until after June the 10th and Nic doesn't have to sign the contract that other teams offer him he just brings that offer to the Blazers, Only if Batum gets scared or greedy and signs some body Else's offer, is when the three days to match starts, so the Blazers has from the tenth of July to 3 days after Batum signs a contract with another team to spend their cap space and then just spend the amount over 5.5 mil after the dust has settled. That is why other teams probably won't offer a contract, because if Batum did not sign and waited they would have that amount of money tied up. Of course they can put a stipulation that Nic gives them a answer in a certain amount of time or the offer is withdrawn and that is what may scare Batum. Nevertheless, I believe Chad when he says Batum is fully aware of their plan and Batum is 99% sure he will be a Blazer next year makes me feel at ease.
    Now to offer JJ a QO, they cannot go over the cap space to sign any other offer because they don't have bird rights on him, but both JJ and Chad said they would sit down and decide when the time comes to either sign him or let him go, and that would be after July the 10th, so they have to sign JJ before they sign Nic.
    That is the way I take it anyway

    by Hg on 5/10/2012 1:18 PM
  4. DHawes22: IMO it is only if Batum signs the accept the offer and as I said above it will only be above the amount of 5.5 mil that the Blazers has to come up with and then since they will deal with that last they can go over the cap space. Of course if some team offers him a toxic off with a big front end like we did Wesley then of course that other teams money will be tied up and they would have to be prepared or have that much money under the cap to pay Batum because if it got to far out of line then the Blazers could always let him walk for nothing. I worry not though, Other teams are going after who they can get in Free agency or trade.

    by Hg on 5/10/2012 1:23 PM
  5. I believe there a few teams that will come really hard at Batum, but even less that Nic will find attractive. The one team that comes up over and over again is San Antonio, presumably because of the other French players already there (and the coach, winning tradition, etc. of course!) If they were able to do it financially, I think the Spurs WOULD offer a Nicolas a "toxic" offer, but I am not convinced anyone else would. Thankfully, as Hollinger has noted, San Antonio is NOT in a spot financially to realistically do so. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Nic's comments in the article from overseas (snippet at BE) are a little concerning though.

    by SisillaRiann on 5/10/2012 10:23 PM
  6. the only thing about restricted free agency that is tricky at all is the specific contract numbers and conditions. this is one of those things where the otfenelusive "why" is prettty obvious.

    both Hollinger and Dustin have valid points. as Hollinger said, most teams are not interested in tying up their money waiting for an answer. however, as Dustin said, it only takes one team to offer more than we want to spend which could force us to overpay.

    it also should be mentioned that there may be a team or two out there who are targeting Nicolas - and only Nicolas - in free agency. that team isn't going to worry about other FA's coming off the board. they'll simply offer as much as they can afford and potentially put the blazers in a position to either overpay or walk away.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/11/2012 6:30 AM
  7. @Hg: it's possible we won't be able to control the timing. for instance, if a team makes Niso an offer on the first day of free agency, we have three days to match it (under the new CBA). a team could essentially force us to deal with Nico's situation first.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/11/2012 6:45 AM
  8. @Miss Kassandra: Just because a team makes Nico a offer doesn't mean he has to sign it, he can just say he will shop for a better offer. Of course then the team making the offer can put a time limit on how much time he has, but in the end it is up to Nico to accept or reject the offer.
    As I said the big worry would be that Nico gets scared that the Blazers won't follow through and signs an offer, then the Blazers only has three days to match; Nico says he is 99% sure that he will be a Blazer next year meaning that he believes in the Blazers unless a toxic offer is made that Portland can't match, as they said the will go over the salary cap to get Nico back but won't go over the tax threshold. So IMHO, not challenging you in any way , I have learned my lesson well LOL,; the ultimate decision is Nico's to force our hands, not other teams.

    by Hg on 5/11/2012 7:59 AM
  9. @Hg: i realize Nicolas would have some time to accept the offer but, like you say, the other team could put a time limit on it. at this point, it's all ifs, buts, shoulda and hope to (i guess shouldn't and hope not ought to fit in there too). my point is, that any number of things could happen to accelerate our need to match the other team's offer sonner than we may want. it's my understanding that we want to take care of Nico last so that we are able to go over the cap. if his contract comes up first, then we may simply have less money to work with when trying to draw in a big name free agent or two. Nico will have a lot of control -- and i don't think he'll treat the blazers unfairly regardless -- but other factors may speed up the process to a time point to a date sooner than we prefer.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/11/2012 12:26 PM
  10. Hey Miss Kassandra: This is not entirely clear, but I kind of remember Chad saying they can give Batum a QO, the first of July, they can talk to RFA, and Other teams can talk to Batum since he is a RFA also, but nobody can offer him a contract until after July the tenth. By that time Chad figures they will have all their trading, FA and RFA on a handshake deal then they have 3 days from the time Batum signs the contract from another team or until the Blazers offer a contract on their own, or as Chad said they have 3 days to spend all their money. One more thing, Nico already has a cap hold of 5.4 Mil, So if somebody does offer him say a 9 to 10 mil contract and Nico gets scared and signs it then the Blazers are just out the difference. they said they would match up to the tax threshold. If that comes to soon we will still have enough cap space to get a center and a PG. Remember Nic said he was 99% sure that he would be a Blazer next year, and although the Blazers can't talk to FA, RFA or trades, they cannot stop the players agents from calling them and talking to them; isn't that a legal loop hole that you will be checking out as a future attorney at law. Anyway they have already done their homework and just waiting for them to be able to act Legally.

    You are right, offers may have a time limit on it but don't forget, Batum can take the offer to the Blazers and ask if they will match then just don't sign the contract then we can sign him to our own contract. Well I think that is the way it is and Nico will have to trust the FO and with Chad being there I am confident that he can.
    I am really confident how ever it goes Nico will be a Blazer next year.

    by Hg on 5/11/2012 3:40 PM
  11. Hey all! I don't see how San Antonio can find the space to offer Nic a big contract. From what I've read the team that can offer him a toxic contract (thank you EA for that adjective!) is Toronto. The attraction for Nic there would be cultural and they could pay him like a superstar. I don't think he wants to go to Charlotte or any other bottom tier franchise. I see him in Portland at the end of it all. Hg is right about the 4.5 and luxury tax we'd pay him to stay. I'd like to see him bring Tony Parker to Portland if anything or even Patty Mills! I believe Nic will be a Blazer for years to come. Now if we could just name a GM and a coach I'd be more confident that the offseason moves would make sense next season.

    by riverman on 5/14/2012 6:50 PM
  12. Also like to add that as much as I like Nic and want him here, losing him wouldn't kill our team at all. He has improved but didn't carry this team into the playoffs this year and does still disappear for long stretches. He has great, great potential and I think we need to understand that the coach we sign is really important to whether free agents want to resign here or not. That has got to get done ASAP

    by riverman on 5/14/2012 7:02 PM
  13. @riverman: they said on Courtside last night that losing Nic wouldn't be the end of the world, but then who would you replace him with?
    IMO, this year couldn't count for anything, when half the team was selling Nate out, Nic and LMA couldn't carry the team; half of the reason he disappeared for stretches was the guards wouldn't pass him the ball; I am not saying that you are not correct, just saying we need to wait until we get a top rate or a better seasoned PG; from what I can gather, that may be Dragic or Lowry, then we can evaluate the rest of the team, And of course bring over Joel Freeland, sign JJ, OBTW, the union is fighting to get him and others bird rights, more time this summer for Babbitt, Nolan, Elliot and who-ever else we get to work together in summer league and training camp and we may come out OK next year; I hope, I hope, I hope.

    by Hg on 5/15/2012 2:18 AM
  14. @Hg: the blazers will certainly extend the qualifying offer sheet to make him a restricted free agent. then a team which has targeted him could make him an offer on july 11, giving the blazers three days to match it. the problem i see is that there is no way Chad (or the new gm) can know how long it's going to take for the blazers to fulfill their outside free agent targets. we have to remember that free agency pretty much extends to the beginning of the season. i don't think we'll be looking for a major player in late october, but i would anticipate there being a couple more-than-decent guys out there into september.

    the thing is, in order to have the maximum money to spend on free agents for next year, we would have to spend it quickly; before we sign Nicolas. i think it's extremely possible that doesn't happen in three days before we are forced to match another team's offer (or walk away). in fact, i think it's a near impossibility. our free agent targets are going to be testing the market too. some, especially the unrestricted free agents, will have the opportunity to bide their time and wait for the offer they really want.

    one last thing, it appears that the blazers will be put into this situation sooner to that july 11 date rather than later; this, according to the article by Chris Haynes on the comcast site. he reports that Nicolas will likely sign the first offer which comes around. here's the article:

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/15/2012 1:03 PM
  15. @riverman: there are ways for the spurs to get creative, but it would cost them. they likely would have to amnesty Ginobli in order to sign Nicolas. if i were gm of the spurs, i would not do so. however, perhaps an argument could be made for that, given Ginobli's injury issues and age. perhaps there are those who would amnesty him in order to bring in his replacement -- a guy like Nicolas. i'm not saying that will happen nor that i would do it, but there are those who may advocate that. one thing which is admittedly unclear is whether a team can make an offer and even verbally agree to terms with a player before making such an amnesty official. what i mean is that it may be possible to make an offer and then amnesty such a player immediately prior to the official signing in order to release the funds.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/15/2012 1:08 PM
  16. Hey miss Kassandra: You may be right; I had already read that statement by Nic's agent. Doesn't that sound silly to sign the first offer rather then to shop and take the best offer, Portland can make him the first offer at 5.5 million, and win him if that was the case. I have no idea what the statement is about, but it sound absurd to me. I don't know how the free agency will work. Chad more or less said they have from the first of the month until the 10th of the month to sworn them, pat their butts or whatever they do to persuade clients, so by the 11th they have a pretty good idea of who they will get and just sign them. In this case, I hope you are fearful over nothing, but then I am that way too.
    It was said last night on courtside that Toronto was our biggest rival for Batum and for free agents.

    Later Miss Kassandra, great to read your post of wisdom.

    by Hg on 5/15/2012 1:35 PM
  17. @Hg: our qualifying offer makes him restricted. it's my understanding that if we offer him the $5.4 million qualifier, he signs it, then no one offered him the $9 million to $11 million, then we would get him for the $5.4 for one year. now, i think even my four-year-old sister understands that's not going to happen. after we sign Nicolas to the qualifier, another team is going to offer him the $9 million to $11 million. that's what we have to match.

    i've heard toronto is one of the teams with some money which might go after Nicolas. i think you can narrow the others as a balance of who is looking for a player like Nicolas and who has the money to lure him away from the blazers. i'm really hoping when all is said and done, that list is smaller than we probably think it is at the moment.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/15/2012 2:36 PM
  18. @Kassandra:
    I agree somebody is going to offer him more, but his agent says they are not going to wait for bidding, he will sign the first offer after the QO, Portland can offer him a contract after July the 10th as well as anybody, If we are the first according to his agent, Nic would sign with us regardless of what the bid was, so I say put in a bid for 5.5 and challenge his agent.
    I am not debating with you, I am just looking a scenarios that makes his agent look silly. Like you said a four year old would know that if more then one team is interested in him there will be many bids after the first one, so why would he sign the first one?

    by Hg on 5/15/2012 3:10 PM
  19. @Hg, When you talk about Nico signing the "first offer" are you referring to the article from Chris Haynes? I understood that to say he would sign the first very handsome offer, not necessarily just the first one. I point out the difference because signing the "first" wouldn't make much sense if it wasn't a great offer. That would make it seem like all he wants to do is stick it to the Trail Blazers and I don't think that's the case. Signing a lucrative offer on the other hand would make complete sense.

    Does that help clear it up? (I think we're using the same source. If not, where are you getting info?)

    by sarahhecht on 5/16/2012 8:36 AM
  20. Miss Sarah: We be using the same source. I took it at the first offer, and that is what was confusing me. the first lucrative offer isn't much better though, but that would depend on what you call a lucrative offer. A front loaded offer is what I would call a lucrative order, not necessarily more money in four or five years but just more money the first year, whereas the Blazers could offer more per year and Batum would get richer in the future.

    But hey thanks for clearing that up for me, I thought it was stupid for the agent to say the first offer. Anyway my bad.
    But Rats that means Kassandra wins again LOL.

    by Hg on 5/16/2012 9:30 AM
  21. Haha, I think a "lucrative offer" would be anything 10M+. IMO he would sign that pretty darn quickly.

    by sarahhecht on 5/16/2012 12:07 PM
  22. I know I would, but then I would sign anything over 30 thousand a year, or play for nothing if they would let me.
    Seriously, I think if a team would be to offer him 10 mil there would be a take it or leave it time clause on it, or saying that Batum would not be able to drag his feet or the offer is gone. But nevertheless we still have from midnight of the 10th until midnight of the 13th to sign him.
    While I have your attention Miss Sarah, and you are back to the grind; there has been a rumor that the Union is saying that players taken while on waivers should be able to have bird rights, That would pertain to JJ, so if we were to get his bird rights he would fall into the same category that Nic is in, could I get you to check out the story and give us underprivileged fans a scoop? If that sounds like manipulation on my part that is because it is manipulation LOL.

    by Hg on 5/16/2012 1:35 PM
  23. Sign Goran Dragic for our pg and Ilyasova for backup sf. Pick jeremy lamb or harrison barnes. and on 11th pick tyler zeller. Also pickup a good center free agent if available, Chris Kaman. Tyler zeller can either play backup Pf or center. We need a good SG who can create his own shots and a good rebounding center or sf. Ilyasova is also getting better

    by reg828 on 5/22/2012 1:59 AM
  24. @Hg: i'm going to make an educated guess here and say that Nicolas and his agent have a number in mind when they consider the initial offers they will see. as Sarah alluded to, it's that type of offer they would consider to be "lucrative." i believe his agent was referring to the lucrative offer when he said the first one would be signed. my concern is that happens earlier than we wish it to, forcing us to match the offer (or not) before we've secured our own free agent(s) we are pursuing.

    as for the rules pertaining to all this, i'm seriously considering researching and writing a paper on the cba for the contracts section of my pre-law program. while not only interesting, it's intricate which is something i could really wrap my head around.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 5/24/2012 9:26 AM
  25. @Kassandra:
    I have conceded to the fact that you were right--darn it, I want to be right just once LMAO. I just read the article wrong.

    I have read many articles on the RFA's and from what I understand we have to make a QO to Nic by June 30th on which at that time he can choose to sign or wait it out. He can be contacted by other teams, but they can't sign him to any other contract until after the 10th of July, from the time Nic signs an offer we have three days to spend all our money then match Nic by going over the cap. Any offers Nic gets verbally before July the 10th, his agent can bring that offer to the Blazers FO and they could verify whether they would be willing to match or not.
    In short as you said his agent has already got numbers figured; in truth they probably already know how much another team will offer. Loophole that his agent attorney finds and the Blazers attorney's find the same loop holes; therefore it is my belief that it is all set up already. The Blazers has 3 days in which to spend their money and I would bet you my house that I don't own against a lifelong free attorney fees. that other then knowing for sure about the final positions and if they have one or two picks in the first round in the draft, that everything in trades and free agency is cut and dried.

    Except for the fact that the union is trying to get Bird rights on players that is picked up on waivers, which may give us Bird rights to JJ. The NBA is sure they have it right, but the final decision is not been handed down. So, Miss Kassandra, future attorney at law, does the union have a leg to stand on?

    I thank you for your input; your wisdom is way above my comprehension.

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 10:23 AM
  26. @Kassandra:
    I am more worried about matching JJ QO. then I am about Nic's because without the bird rights we can't go over cap space with him.

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 10:25 AM
  27. Nic will be wearing black and red in the end... Battuuuuum!!!

    by D Licious on 7/5/2012 10:12 AM
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