Nicolas Batum gets $46 million offer

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have submitted a four-year, $46 million offer sheet for restricted free agent Nicolas Batum.

The Portland Trail Blazers now have three days to match the offer or let him leave for Minnesota. The two teams have been having conversations about the 23-year-old swingman from France for over a week. The Wolves were hoping that Portland would agree to a sign-and-trade deal and tried to draw out negotiations as long as possible before filing the contract Sunday evening.

Wolves president David Kahn used the amnesty clause on Darko Milicic, bought out Martell Webster and traded Brad Miller to New Orleans to create the cap room needed to sign Batum to the offer sheet.

Blazers GM Neil Olshey has said repeatedly that they will match the Timberwolves' offer, and trade talks between the teams apparently have devolved into a grudge match -- at least for Portland -- that involves far more than the talented forward.

The Blazers acknowledged that they did receive the offer sheet Sunday night and said they would have no further comment until a decision has been made. If Olshey is to be believed, that decision was made a long time ago.

The Timberwolves have offered as many as three future first-round draft picks and even have dangled small forward Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft.

But the Blazers have resisted every overture even though multiple sources say Portland management believes $46.4 million is vastly more than Batum is worth.
Batum's desire to leave Portland began last winter when the Blazers offered him an extension that averaged $5 million per year, a source said.

The Timberwolves also tried to orchestrate a deal that would have sent small forward Kyle Korver to the Blazers, along with the future first-round picks, in a three-way deal involving the Chicago Bulls. That, too, was rejected by Portland.

As soon as the free agent market opened July 1, the Timberwolves set their sights on Batum, a versatile, 6-foot-8 shooter with an established reputation as a fine perimeter defender. Team president David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman think Batum is a perfect fit for their more open offensive system and can grow alongside rising young stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

The Wolves hosted Batum in the Twin Cities for a visit last week and he was impressed with what he heard. Agent Bouna Ndiaye said that his client was unhappy with how he was being used in Portland and would much prefer to play under Adelman and alongside Love and Rubio in Minnesota. They agreed to terms on an offer July 6, and spent the last 10 days trying to negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with the Blazers to make it happen.

Even before the battle for Batum began, the teams were working to resolve a dispute, a league source said.

The Blazers traded swingman Webster to the Timberwolves in a 2010 draft-night deal for Ryan Gomes and the rights to Minnesota's No. 16 pick, Luke Babbitt. The following fall, Webster had back surgery because of a bulging disk. The Blazers were aware of the injury but did not disclose it before the trade, a league source said. The two teams since have been quietly negotiating compensatory terms but have not been able to reach an agreement.

That former Blazers guard Brandon Roy has agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Timberwolves also has Portland owner Paul Allen thinking Minnesota is trying to make life difficult for him, a source said.

Roy retired before last season because of degenerative knees. The Blazers still owed him $49 million over three years at the time, but an insurance policy was expected to cover a significant chunk of that. If he returns to play, however, that policy no longer can be invoked and the Blazers are back on the hook for what they owe him, minus the $10 million Minnesota will pay him, sources say. The balance due from the Blazers could be as much as $17 million, one source said.

Kahn is from Portland and once covered the team as a sportswriter for The Oregonian, but a team source insists there is no personal element coloring the Timberwolves' interest in Batum or Roy or pursuing damages for Webster. The team even offered to relax its position on Webster in exchange for dealing them Batum.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher and The Associated Press was used in this report.