On Wednesday afternoon, the first day free agents can officially sign contracts, Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey spoke with the media regarding the status of Portland’s restricted free agent Nicolas Batum and the multitude of rumors surrounding the future of the small forward.
Nic is on record saying he wants to play in Minnesota, when you hear that what do you think?
I guess he’s into mosquito bites and frostbite. I don’t know what to tell ya. But look, this is the game. This is a little unique, it’s different than our situation with Roy Hibbert because Bouna [Ndiaye] didn’t ask to negotiate with us. I was totally open to negotiate a deal straight-up. He said he wanted to go into the free agent market and do a deal with somebody else and put pressure on us to match or do a sign and trade and that’s his prerogative. That’s the business model they chose for his client and look, Nic has never said a bad word about Portland. Some of the issues he had with being here no longer exist, so I don’t think that’s a problem. The same core group of players is here. He’s a talented kid. The coaches we’re going to talk to will all embrace him being here, will understand that he’s got a skill set that goes beyond what he’s been asked to do the last few years and look, there’s going to be a responsibility that’ll come with that if it works out. Once you get paid the level of expectation goes up and if you’re asking to have more freedom to do other things you need to make sure you can produce. I think Nic’s capable of all of it and over the next few days we’ll sort it all out.
You said before you’re going to match anything, is that still the case?
Yeah. If this goes to an offer sheet, absolutely. I don’t see any reason, nobody here sees any reason to let talent walk out the door. I would’ve preferred to have handled this straight up, but he’s not the only guy signing an offer sheet and he’s not the only guy who’s going to get the offer sheet matched. At the end of the day as long as we create a great basketball environment he’ll have no problem.
Why has it not gone to a sheet yet?
I’m not doing the sheet, so I can’t tell you. I don’t want to speculate, but there’s different reasons. There’s strategic reasons, there’s cap reasons. A lot of times there are sequential orders of business in our league. Minnesota is handling their business, I know Nicolas is a priority for them and they’ve got other things they need to do. They’re not doing Nicolas in a vacuum, they’ve got other roster moves that they need to make one way or another. So, it’s on them and like I said, unless Bouna calls and wants to make a deal straight up, which I would welcome, we’ll just wait on the offer sheet if we can’t work something else out.
Sign and trade is still off the table?
Yeah. Look, you don’t close the door to anything in this league, but from what I can see as far as what they could viably offer, as of today, I would think Nicolas would have more value than whatever they could put into a sign and trade.
Has Minnesota approached you about that?
Yeah, we’ve been talking. David Kahn’s a creative guy. We’ve had a lot of conversations over the last few days and like I said, at this point nothing that they’ve pitched is intriguing enough that it would be more valuable to the organization going forward than Nic. But that doesn’t mean we’re not open to talking, you’re always open to talking.
I know you can’t speak for Kahn, but has he indicated to you that he’s going to extend the offer?
I can’t speak for Kahn. It’s called the wrath of Kahn. I don’t know what to tell ya, I got enough trouble running my own company never mind worrying about running Minnesota’s as well. Look, it’ll all work out. This is part of the problem with the moratorium. It’s been a ten day waiting period and we’re all sitting around and it’s nothing but internet speculation and I think you’ll realize that a lot of the things that we’re reported over the last ten days across the league, how many of them have actually happened? Unless someone substantively said, ‘Hey, we intend to enter into a contract with this player when the moratorium ends,’ a lot of it’s just banter.
Do you think if 30 GMs had their druthers they’d get rid of the moratorium?
No, you can’t. There’s a reason why, but it just puts everybody in a position where, I think prior to the internet, prior to Twitter, I don’t think it was a big deal, but I think now what it does is it forces us to be in a position where we’re constantly commenting on things that didn’t come from the organizations involved, that came from people speculating on the organizations involved.
A couple days ago you said after Hibbert you we’re likely to dip back inot that pool, is that still the case?
Yeah. Roy was our guy. We had targeted Roy, we thought he was a great fit for the organization. When it became apparent that they were going to match we worked directly with David Falk, his agent, we released Roy from the commitment with the caveat that as long as they did an identical deal to the one we were offering it’d be better to do the deal straight up. They would have good will with their player. We had done everything we could, but at that point there was no reason to make it acrimonious. We all work together, we want to do deals together. Donnie Walsh is a great man, he’s someone I’ve always looked up to. So as long as they were willing to match the terms there was no reason to wait a week for it. We freed up our money so we could move on with our business, sign our rookies, they were out here practicing today as a result of it, they got their franchise center back and we live to fight another day.