Blazers will match offers for Batum

Published 9:11 am Thursday, July 12, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said the team will match any offers for French swingman Nicolas Batum.

Olshey’s comments came Wednesday amid speculation the team is 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.

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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 would 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 agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with free agent power forward J.J. Hickson on Wednesday.

Hickson played in 19 games with the Blazers last season, averaging 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds, after Portland claimed him off waivers from the Sacramento Kings.

The agreement was confirmed Wednesday by Hickson’s agent, Andy Miller, who would not discuss financial terms. It was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

The Blazers also 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.

“Victor is a player with a high basketball IQ who will come in as a good complement to our roster,” Olshey said. “He defends well for his size, has a nice shooting touch, and we look forward to having him on board.”

A native of Valencia, the 6-foot-10 Claver is on the Spanish national team that will play in the London Olympics. He was in Portland this week to sign his contract before returning to the national team on Thursday.

“I’m very excited to take this step forward,” Claver announced on Twitter. “Thanks to everyone who supported me and helped me to get it. Thanks!”

Terms of the multiyear deal were not announced.

Portland was hoping to finalize a deal to bring 2006 draft pick Joel Freeland to the NBA. The deal hinges on a buyout with Unicaja Malaga, Freeland’s team in the Spanish ACB league.

The 6-10 forward-center from England averaged 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season with Unicaja Malaga.

Freeland’s agent, Rafa Calvo, did not respond to email seeking comment.