The Timberwolves on Thursday said farewell to failed experiment Darko Milicic, waiving him to clear the way for a promised rich offer sheet to Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum that never arrived by nightfall.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor said Thursday afternoon that his team would "call their bluff" and sign Batum to a four-year, $46.5 million offer sheet if the Trail Blazers didn't agree to a sign-and-trade arrangement by the end of business that day.
Thursday evening came and went with neither a trade completed, nor an offer sheet delivered to the Blazers while Wolves management worked into the night, either to exhaust trade options with Portland or to clear more salary-cap space.
Taylor said the Wolves are willing to give Portland draft picks and perhaps a player, but not 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, if the Blazers agree they won't match the offer and pay the 23-year-old swingman nearly $12 million a year. Comcast SportsNet in Portland reported the offer sheet includes a 15 percent trade "kicker" that would cost the Blazers more money to trade Batum if they ever wanted.
If that offer sheet is ever really signed by Batum and delivered to Portland, the Blazers will have three days to match the offer.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey on Wednesday said he wasn't interested in what the Wolves were offering, but he could be holding out for a player such as Williams or Nikola Pekovic.
Once the sheet is signed, any chance for a trade arrangement between the teams is gone.
The Wolves started to clear that kind of big money from their salary cap by releasing Milicic. They used a one-time "amnesty" clause given every team in last November's new labor agreement to pay Milicic the rest of his two-year contract without that $7 million being applied to their salary-cap numbers.
By doing so, the Wolves ended their two-plus season experiment with the now infamous second pick in a loaded 2003 draft, a guy whom President of Basketball Operations David Kahn called "manna from heaven" when he signed a four-year contract in July 2010. Kahn coined that phrase during a memorable NBA TV interview with Chris Webber during a Las Vegas Summer League game just after the Wolves signed Milicic to a deal guaranteeing him at least $16 million.
Milicic will become a free agent if no NBA teams bid for him in a 48-hour waiver process.
Agent Marc Cornstein said Thursday's release "didn't come out of left field" to a player who fell out of disfavor with Wolves coach Rick Adelman midway through last season's truncated 66-game schedule, adding that Milicic hopes to play in the NBA again. If he does, it will be his sixth team in 10 NBA seasons, all at the age of 27.
Besides releasing Milicic, the Wolves also are expected to buy Brad Miller and Martell Webster out of the final years of their contracts to free additional cap space.
If the Wolves fail to upgrade at small forward by adding Batum, they could turn their search for a wing player to unrestricted free agents Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo or try to trade for Philadelphia swingman and U.S. Olympian Andre Iguodala, who might be available because he is due $30 million for the next two seasons.
Lee played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman and Iguodala would give them a veteran leader and perimeter defender they clearly lack.
But Taylor suggested the team might instead turn their attention to other positions.
"We need big guys," he said.
The Wolves have put their pursuit of Boston restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma and Los Angeles Lakers unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill on hold while their pursuit of Batum continues on and on, and on.