The Latest on Joel Freeland

As Andre Miller's signing ceremony took place this afternoon in Portland, there was another Blazers signing making news halfway across the globe.

Joel Freeland, as you might have read in Kap's fanshot, inked a new deal with Spain's Unicaja Malaga that his previous team, Gran Canaria, chose not to match.  Freeland's NBA rights are held by the Blazers and there has been some discussion recently that the team might renounce those rights.  

Yesterday's initial report (linked above) stated that Freeland's new deal was for 5 years; this morning's official report from Euroleague.net simply stated...

Unicaja announced the signing of center Joel Freeland to a multi-year deal on Monday. 

...

Gran Canaria had the option to match Unicaja's offer and keep the player, but opted not to do so, allowing Unicaja to sign one of the most promising big men in European basketball.

Given the reported long-term nature of the deal, the Blazers' extraordinarily deep roster, and the organization's tight cap situation, the kneejerk reaction to yesterday's news was that this signing could be the end of the road for Freeland as a Blazer.  

I spoke with General Manager Kevin Pritchard this afternoon and he was careful to state that Freeland remains a part of the team's long-term plans.  

What's more, Portland was involved in Freeland's move.  "I don't want to say that we brokered the deal," Pritchard stated, "but we were always a part of that communication. Joel was pretty adament about going back overseas for a couple more years. He does absolutely want to come back to the NBA, he just wants more playing time, so when he comes he can be ready and we love that."

Asked to confirm the length and terms of the deal, Pritchard seemed taken aback, shaking his head when asked about the initial 5 year report.  He did say, "I think they're saying multi-year. I don't know specifically, I'd rather [the Spanish club] say it."

The big question, as always with international deals, is the contract's buyout situation.  As David Kahn is finding out in Minnesota, prohibitive buyouts can make life miserable.  Pritchard noted that the Blazers "understand how his buyout works," and although he wouldn't put a specific dollar figure on it, stated that te amount is " where we can get him [to the NBA] when it's time."  

Asked if that applied to both next summer and 3 years down the road, Pritchard re-asserted that Freeland's buyout structure would not be an obstacle to bringing him to the NBA. Does that mean we'll ever see Freeland in a Blazers uniform?  Who knows.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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