Wolves wooing swingman Batum

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 10:28 PM

The restricted free agent would address the team's needs both at small forward and shooting guard.

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Swingman Nicolas Batum (right, with Kevin Love), a restricted free agent, met with the Wolves on Sunday and is expected to be offered a contract.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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The Timberwolves got busy during the first 24 hours of NBA free agency, wooing Portland swingman Nicolas Batum to town on Sunday evening and scheduling visits for two other players, league sources said.

The Wolves are expected to offer a four-year deal that could approach $50 million for Batum, a 6-8 restricted free-agent swingman who would address two of their biggest needs -- small forward and shooting guard -- with one big signing.

No contract can be signed until the NBA's moratorium on trades and signings ends July 11. The Trail Blazers and their kajillionaire owner Paul Allen then would have three days to match the Wolves' offer.

The Wolves also called Boston restricted free-agent center Greg Stiemsma one minute after free agency commenced late Saturday night and brought him to Minneapolis for a visit on Sunday morning.

Los Angeles Lakers unrestricted free-agent power forward Jordan Hill -- who played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman in Houston -- is expected to visit on Monday while the Wolves still are believed to be pursuing a trade for Lakers star Pau Gasol.

The Wolves pursued Batum before the 2010 draft, reportedly offering the No. 4 pick they eventually used to select Wes Johnson for a player who was taken 25th overall in 2008. But the Blazers refused the offer.

Batum, 23, was scheduled to fly from his home in France to Minneapolis to meet with team owner Glen Taylor, president of basketball operations David Kahn and Adelman, all of whom flew to Seattle to meet with retired two-time All-Star and unrestricted free agent Brandon Roy on Friday.

Batum presumably would give the Wolves what they still lack after drafting Johnson fourth overall in 2010 and trading that same summer for Michael Beasley, whose two seasons with the team ended Saturday when he became an unrestricted free agent after he did not receive an $8.1 million qualifying offer. Batum is a versatile perimeter player who can handle the ball, defend and shoot the three-pointer while playing both forward and guard positions.

He's also a freaky athlete with really long arms. The Blazers likely will match any offer, although their discussions to offer Indiana restricted free-agent center Roy Hibbert a maximum $58 million contract could complicate their decision.

The Timberwolves signed Stiemsma out of the D League just before the end of the 2009-10 season so he could be a summer workout partner with Al Jefferson, play for the Wolves' Las Vegas Summer League team and perhaps have his contract used as a trade chip. He was cut during training camp that next fall.

Hill played 95 games for Adelman in one-plus seasons with the Rockets after he was acquired in a 2010 trade with New York, which drafted him eighth overall in 2009. There's still a chance the Wolves and Lakers could strike a sign-and-trade deal that would swap Hill for Beasley, even though both now are unrestricted free agents.

The Wolves also have talked with the agents of unrestricted free-agent guards Willie Green and Jamal Crawford.

The Wolves pursued Crawford, a 12-year NBA veteran whom Adelman has called a proven "volume scorer," as a free agent before last season and at the March trade deadline. He also is good friends with Roy, whom the Wolves also are wooing.

Roy, 27, is expected to meet with Chicago, Indiana, Golden State and Dallas before making a decision where he will attempt a comeback after he retired last December because of knees that have little or no cartilage left.

Crawford, 32, and Roy each could fit in one of the Wolves' salary-cap exception slots even if they can sign Batum and acquire Gasol."I don't see why I wouldn't be interested in playing there," Crawford said at his charity game in Spokane, Wash., on Saturday. "If they have interest in me, then I have interest in them. [His negotiations with Minnesota] were so rushed last year, but the warm feelings are still here, at least from my end. I've always been a big fan of Coach Adelman and Coach [Jack] Sikma, and I think David Kahn is doing some real good things as well."

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