Wolves' offer sheet to Batum will come Sunday

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 11:23 PM

Martell Webster was bought out and Brad Miller was traded as the Wolves freed up more salary-cap space for Nicolas Batum.

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Martell Webster battled injuries during his two seasons with the Wolves, averaging 6.9 points per game in 47 games this past season after playing in only 46 of 82 games in 2010-11.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The Timberwolves made two more transactions to clear salary-cap space on Friday and promise they will submit that long-awaited rich offer sheet to Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum promptly at 4 p.m. Sunday.

So soon?

The Wolves have until then to reach a trade with the Trail Blazers for Batum, their preferred route for obtaining a 23-year-old who they believe will provide the defense, three-point shooting and star potential at small forward that they lack.

If not, the Blazers will have until Wednesday to match the $46.5 million offer sheet, an action that seems like a mere formality if they don't agree to a trade.

So why go through all this trouble if the Blazers are only going to match as they have guaranteed all along, eight days into the NBA's free-agency signing period?

"We don't see it as trouble," Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said. "We think we owe it to ourselves to take the shot."

Kahn also said the team owes it to Batum and his agent after a lengthy courtship.

"I take our commitment to him not only seriously, but it's a matter of honor, I think," Kahn said. "When somebody makes a commitment, you have to follow through."

The Wolves had to wait two more days for guard Martell Webster to clear waivers after they bought out the final year of his $5.7 million salary for $600,000 on Friday.

Right after doing that, they traded retiring center Brad Miller's contract and two second-round picks to New Orleans for one second-round pick, an exchange that saved them $800,000 on the cap from buying out Miller's final year.

The Wolves also renounced the rights to unrestricted free agents Anthony Tolliver and Anthony Randolph but still could re-sign each if they have the cap room. And they facilitated a three-way trade that, if completed, will send Chicago's Kyle Korver to Atlanta and bring the Wolves cash and/or a draft pick.

On Thursday, they waived center Darko Milicic, agreeing to pay him $7 million for two more seasons under their one-time "amnesty" provision that allows them to take that money off their salary-cap books.

Those moves clear the way to submit the offer sheet to the NBA and the Blazers once Batum signs it Sunday. Comcast SportsNet in Portland reported Batum signed the offer sheet Thursday, but the league ruled it invalid because the Wolves didn't have enough cap space to do so.

The Wolves probably could have leveraged the cap-friendly contracts of Webster and Miller by trading with a team looking to deal a high-salaried star, such as Philadelphia and Andre Iguodala, who is due $30 million over the next two seasons.

Instead, they bought out Webster and traded Miller in pursuit of Batum, the 25th pick in the 2008 draft who will play for his native France in this month's London Olympics.

Kahn compared Batum to the recently acquired Chase Budinger in this respect: "He's a veteran, but a young veteran who will grow with Ricky [Rubio] and Kevin [Love] and some of the young players we have on our team. He's a dynamic wing player capable of defending multiple positions. His three-point shooting has improved every year. He's just a fine all-around basketball player. In certain ways, you could look at our team and say he's very much a missing piece, so we're hopeful we could have him."

Once a signed offer sheet is submitted to the league, any sign-and-trade possibility is gone.

Kahn said he is not concerned his team will run out of free-agent options if they chase Batum for a week only to lose him to Portland. He said his team's relationship with agents -- they have expressed interest in Boston center Greg Stiemsma, Lakers forward Jordan Hill and Houston guard Courtney Lee, among others -- leaves it well positioned if the Blazers match the offer.

"If they choose to match it leaves us with frankly a significant amount of room for us to pursue other players," Kahn said. "We don't see this as a win-lose."

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