In just a little over seven hours, a slew of free agents will be inking new deals as the free agent moratorium period is lifted tonight at 9:01 PM PST. And all eyes in Rip City will be on restricted free agent Nicolas Batum as he has reportedly verbally agreed to a four-year, $45 million contract
with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of course if Nic does indeed sign that offer sheet with the Wolves, the Trail Blazers will have 72 hours to match if they do so choose.
For the majority of the free agency period to date, everything out of Batum's camp has been announced through his agent. Outside of a few one-word answers about his future, Nicolas has been tight-lipped, deciding to focus his attention on the French National Team as they prepare for the upcoming Olympics rather than worry about contract negotiations. But NBA.com's David Aldridge caught up with the fourth-year swingman
who made it crystal clear his top choice is to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I’m a restricted free agent,” Batum said. “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. I’ve got nothing against the fans (in Portland) and nothing against the city. But this is a basketball decision and basketball wise, I want to be there. Last year, they impressed everybody, and that’s what I respect. To have a great young point guard like (Ricky) Rubio, and a great coach like (Rick) Adelman, I really liked that project. And I think they think I’m the missing piece at small forward. That’s what they told me."
"When I talked with Adelman last week, I felt like he wants me, will play me the way I ask to play,” Batum said. “Last year was tough for all of us and I think I need a new start. I think I need something else. Again, it’s nothing against the city or the fans (in Portland)."
Every indication from Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey has been that Portland will match any and all offers and isn't too fond of working out any sign-and-trades
"We appreciated the face-to-face meeting to get our message across," Olshey said. "And that message was that we intend to match any offer and we will not facilitate any sign-and-trade scenarios."
Yet, Batum seems to be hopeful that a sign-and-trade can be facilitated.
“I know that they’re working on a sign and trade, and I’m very hopeful that both of them understand my situation, do the best both for me and for them," Batum said.
It should be an interesting next 24 hours for both fan bases in Portland and Minnesota. If Nicolas does sign an offer sheet immediately, that will take all sign-and-trade opportunities off the table. At that point, the ball would be in Portland's court: match or decline.