Weeks of ongoing negotiations between Nicolas Batum and the Porltand Trail Blazers all comes down to Wednesday, and if the deadline passes and an extension isn’t reached Blazers fans shouldn’t be alarmed.
But there still may be long term cause for worry.
On a day that so far has seen both Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets’ Danillo Gallinari reach four-year extensions (with Love’s deal including a third year opt-out) with their respective teams, Batum can only sit by and wait his turn. And wait, and wait, and wait…
“This is a business,” Batum told the Oregonian after Portland beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
“If we can’t reach a deal, we can’t reach a deal. I’ll be focused on this team and this season. If that happens, maybe we’ll find a deal next July. We’ll see.”
While Portland’s acting GM Chad Buchanan and conversations with Batum’s agent, Bouna Ndiaye, have been continuous, each side is considering all factors (Batum’s role on the team, the future of Gerald Wallace, and bottom line dollars and cents) involved during the negotiation process. And if Wednesday comes and goes without a new deal, the next concrete date to keep in mind is July 1. That’s when Batum would become a restricted free agent and the Blazers have the right to match any contract thrown the small forward’s way.
No one around Portland wants to imagine this is Batum’s last season with the Blazers. Some fans will cringe even reading that last line. But with teams like the San Antonio Spurs or even the Los Angeles Lakers in need of a player of Batum’s defensive caliber, many teams around the league could make matters strenuous on Paul Allen’s wallet this coming offseason. That’s a challenge Allan and the Blazers front office are apparently willing to take, because all signs are pointing to Portland and Batum not getting a deal done on Wednesday.
Matching an offer for Batum will be a must for the Blazers, yet they are probably pondering the point they have pending free agent Gerald Wallace as a major ace in the hole in this whole Batum-extension plan. Although the new collective-bargaining agreement makes it a no-brainer for Wallace to opt-out of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent in June, the veteran small forward would like to remain in Portland but knows it’s best to listen to offers before settling in long-term in Rip City.
Keep in mind Portland also needs to address the contracts of Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, and Greg Oden after this season and surely the futures of both Wallace and Batum are connected to the future of those three contracts.
Batum – whom the Blazers are still trying to figure out if he is a starter or first option off the bench at small forward – is averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in a reserve role, with Wallace putting up 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The debate around Portland this season has been, will the Blazers bring back Batum or Wallace this offseason (and likely investi $17-19 million per year at one position) and how will head coach Nate McMillan juggle their minutes at small forward?
Now the talk might as well be, how does the team stop from losing both players to free- agency?
That’s where the worry comes in.