Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey says the team will match any offers for French swingman Nicolas Batum.
Olshey’s comments came Wednesday amid speculation the team might be working on a sign-and-trade with Minnesota, which is interested in the restricted free agent.
”I think Nicolas would have more value than what Minnesota is willing to offer in a sign-and-trade,” Olshey said at the Blazers’ Tualatin practice facility.
Batum’s agent, Bouna Ndiaye, told The Associated Press last week that he and the Timberwolves agreed to terms on a four-year, $45 million offer with bonuses that could push it past $50 million. A formal offer has not yet been made.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP the Timberwolves were prepared to move some of the team’s guaranteed contracts to other teams’ cap room that would allow them to present Batum with the offer sheet.
The Timberwolves would prefer to work a sign-and-trade with the Blazers directly, but were willing to extend the offer to see if Portland would indeed match it before moving on to other candidates to fill the void at swingman. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.
The Wolves see Batum as the versatile, athletic player they’ve been searching for on the wing and think he would be a perfect fit in coach Rick Adelman’s offense. Ndiaye told the AP that Batum wants to play in Minnesota because he would feel more comfortable playing in Adelman’s system.
The Blazers have maintained since the end of last season they’d like to build for the future around forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Batum, who has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds over four seasons with the Blazers.
”I don’t believe in letting talent walk out the door,” Olshey said.
Batum is currently training with the French national team as they prepare for the London Olympics. A call placed to Ndiaye seeking comment on the latest development was not immediately returned.
The Blazers also announced Wednesday they signed Spanish forward Victor Claver, the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft. Claver comes to Portland after six seasons with Valencia in the Spanish ACB League. He averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists last season.
A native of Valencia, Claver is on the Spanish national team that will play in the London Olympics.