The Minnesota Timberwolves’ most recent attempt to acquire restricted free agent Nicolas Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers has once again been halted due to personal reasons. According to various NBA reports, the Blazers refuse to part ways with the French forward because of lingering ill feelings both sides have developed for one another following a 2010 draft-night trade.
Two summers ago, the Blazers and T-Wolves agreed to a trade that sent Martell Webster to Minnesota in exchange for Ryan Gomes
and the draft rights to Luke Babbitt, Minnesota’s 2010 first-round draft pick. A few months later, Minnesota’s newly acquired swingman was required to have back surgery to repair a bulging disk, an injury that Portland was aware of before the trade according to an NBA source. The two teams have been quietly at odds following Webster’s surgery and are working on an agreement to compensate Minnesota.
Webster, who played a total of 93 games in two seasons for Minnesota, was officially waived by the Timberwolves on Friday in order to clear $5 million worth of salary cap space for Batum’s offer sheet.
“All I can say is that I enjoyed my time in Minnesota a real joy I had there,” Webster tweeted. “Thank you so much for what you gave me Minneapolis.”
Minnesota said it ease up in compensatory negotiations if Portland allowed Batum to sign with the T-Wolves.
The Timberwolves have repeatedly tried over the past week and a half to acquire the Frenchman by offering three future first-round draft picks and Derrick Williams, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft. Batum reportedly wanted out of Portland as recently as last winter after Portland offered an extension that would pay him $5 million per year. If an agreement is not reached tonight, Minnesota is prepared to offer Batum a four-year, $46.4 million offer sheet on Sunday.
Timberwolves general manager David Kahn sees the versatile, defensive-minded swingman as a key piece that could help the team earn a playoff spot next season after he averaged 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds last season.
“He very much is kind of a missing piece,” Kahn told The Washington Post. “We’re very hopeful that we can have him. But we understand what restricted free agency is.”
Minnesota and Kahn are doing as much as possible to acquire Batum. They amnestied Darko Milicic on Thursday and parted ways with Webster. The T-Wolves also traded center Brad Miller, who plans to retire, and two second-round draft picks to New Orleans. The Hornets will buy out Miller for $848,000 and receive Brooklyn’s 2013 pick and Minnesota’s 2016 pick.
It is also reported that Portland owner Paul Allen believes Minnesota is pursuing a vendetta against his franchise, and it started with the news of the Timberwolves’ recent two-year, $10 million contract agreement with Brandon Roy.
Roy, a former Blazers All-Star and 2006 first-round pick, retired following the 2011-12 season because of a degenerative knee issue. After Roy’s retirement, Portland expected an insurance policy to cover the 27-year-old’s remaining $49 million salary over the next three years. However, once the new Minnesota guard plays this upcoming season, Portland is required to pay Roy up to $17 million, according to ESPN.
If the T-Wolves do not acquire Batum they risk losing other free agent wing players, like Courtney Lee and O.J. Mayo, to the open market. Minnesota has also reached out to big men Greg Stiemsma and Jordan Hill to fill out their front court.
About the Author
Written by Jourdan Shepard
New York born. New Jersey bred. Earned my degree on a Georgia clay hill. "Rooting for my rival is like wanting the house to win in blackjack...."