Here's a transcript of comments made by Portland Trail Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan on Wednesday night after the team failed to reach a contract extension agreement with forward Nicolas Batum, who is now on track to becoming a restricted free agent this summer.
Buchanan's major talking point, which he repeated a number of times: The Blazers continue to value Batum and the failure to reach a deal doesn't reflect the team's opinion of him as a player or future key piece.
How did the last couple of days of talks progress? What developed and what didn't?
"I don't want to get too specific. I will tell you that from our very first meeting to the last in-person meeting we had, which was yesterday, we obviously had a lot of dialogue. Very amicable negotiations. We have a lot of respect for [Batum's agent] Bouna [Ndiaye]. There's a lot of goodwill on both sides.
"Even though we didn't come to an agreement on a deal, we had a lot of good discussion of Nic's long-term goals and things like that that give us a good indication of where things are going with him. What he wants moving forward. The fact that we didn't get a deal in no way reflects how we feel about Nic. It's part of the business right now that we didn't come to an agreement. Hopefully come next summer we'll find something that makes sense for both sides. Or, if we have an offer sheet, then we'll make a decision at that point."
What is it that Batum communicated to you that he's looking for? Playing time, a specific role, or were you referring to the money?
"It's a combination of everything. Typical of a young player, they want to feel a big part of the team and Nic has been a big part of our team and hopefully he is moving forward. They want to grow as a player and I think that's important, especially for a young player. Nic likes it in Portland. He's very comfortable with our organization and city. Trying to become the best player he can be is important to him and it's important to us too.
"At the end of the day [not reaching an extension agreement] was a possibility going into it. We were prepared for it, Nic's side was prepared for it, that's just how it played out. It does not in any way reflect on how we feel about Nic or how Nic feels about our organization. It's part of the nature of how our business is set up. It doesn't reflect in any way on how we feel about him."
What was owner Paul Allen's role in this negotiation? Did you present him with a recommendation or an offer to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on?
"He's involved in any decision we make. We keep him involved on the progress this team made and the nature of the talks. Keeping him up to date. Obviously we present a recommendation to him. Ultimately it's his decision but we have made recommendations and we've all been on the same page with where things are at on our side. Ultimately he allows us to make recommendations to him. That's how it played out, just like it did at the Draft and free agency. We want to get his input obviously because it's his team and make sure he's involved."
Batum's agent Bouna Ndiaye said your offer was not "fair." You don't hear that coming out of every negotiation. Do you feel that you made a "fair" offer?
"I can't speak for their side. We know how they feel. I wouldn't want to get into too many details about it. We feel like it was a fair offer but that's just part of the bigger negotiation sometimes. There's a gap in there and there just happened to be a gap at this time. I wouldn't want to speak for their side on that. We still have strong feelings about Nic and I hope to see him be a valuable contributor like he has been and help us out this year."
You said there was a gap between the two positions. Would you say the offer sought by Batum and Ndiaye was reasonable? Was there some back-and-forth or was this the kind of gap that was never going to get closed during the season?
"It was a typical negotiation. There was some back-and-forth on it. Obviously Bouna is going to look out for his client and we're going to look out for our business at the same time and try to come together on a number that made sense at this time. It just didn't happen. We hope that come this summer [it does happen and] we are aware we'll have a decision to make [if there's an offer sheet]. We still have strong feelings about Nic. Bouna is just trying to look out for his client. We understand that and respect that."
What factors were weighed most heavily in crafting your offer?
"We started with the fact that we had strong feelings about Nic as a player and person. When you're going through a negotiation on something like this you consider everything. You're looking at his role on your team, his long-term potential, his production up to this point. Just everything. How he fits with your team. Nic's been a really good piece for us during his time here. We think that he can be moving forward for a long time and hope that he is."
How would you respond to critics who say that you've been saying those same things about valuing him since December and then didn't deliver the extension?
"Just because there's no deal made, I don't think that reflects that we don't value Nic. There's a lot of teams that value their players who are going to restricted free agency next summer as well. That's just a real part of our business. Lots of times a guy coming out of his rookie deal -- only five guys that I'm aware of were extended by the deadline today. I know there are a lot of teams that like their players but this just the nature of the business. Just because we didn't reach a deal with him in no way reflects that we don't value Nic. We're going to continue to value Nic."
Why did you come out so strongly in the preseason press conference praising Nic and his importance to the team? Was that a part of a negotiation strategy, a desire to make it clear to Nic that he was a priority, a message to the fans or something else? To hear that message and see his diminished playing time and now the lack of an extension has thrown some people for a loop. Did you maybe underestimate Gerald Wallace at that time?
"Nic has always been a valuable piece of our team. He's still a valuable piece and hope that he is for awhile. Gerald playing well at the beginning of the year obviously has some impact on Nic's minutes a little bit because those guys are playing the same position. Nic has had some terrific games for us. I think he's still a very important piece of our team.
"What we communicated at the beginning of the year is true. We have strong feelings about Nic and where he can be long-term and the type of player he can be for us.
"Part of is that he's still a young player. You've got to remember this guy just turned 24 years old. He's still a growing and developing player. To put super high expectations on him can sometimes be unfair for a young player. For Nic, adjusting to a different role than he had on his team in France can be a little bit of an adjustment period and I think he's starting to get settled into his role on this team. Tonight he played well and I think we're going to continue to see him get comfortable with this team and play well."
Has he been in his own head because of the negotiations?
"I don't know. Our guys, we have had such an up-and-down season so far. I think it's a reflection of that. I think all of our guys have had moments where they've struggled at home or on the road. I think people may be keeping a closer eye on Nic because of his contract situation which might be unfair to Nic. I think he's handled everything very well. He's a very professional and first class person.
"We try to support him and we communicated with him how we feel about him. I've been getting through the peaks and valleys of the season is a challenge for anybody. Whether this weighed on Nic on the court or not, maybe it did to a certain degree, but I thought he handled it very well and very professionally through all of this."
Do you expect him to be a highly-coveted guy in free agency?
"I think there will be some teams out there that like Nic. Any time you have a young player who is still developing, has played for a good team like we've had for the last few years, he's going to generate some interest. We're very well aware of that. I'm sure there will be several teams that have some interest in him next summer. We anticipate hopefully being able to negotiate with Bouna and, if there's an offer sheet, then we'll make a decision if we want to match or not."
How does your decision to hold firm with whatever your offer was to Batum fit into your larger-scale strategy? Was this about flexibility or about timing or something else?
"You always have to look long-term with your business just like any other business. Basketball is no different. We have the potential to have some flexibility next summer which is attractive to us. At the same time we do value Nic and ideally would keep him, come to a deal that makes sense for you and allows you to maintain some of that flexibility is great. We also know there's a possibility that it wouldn't. We value all of our guys on this team right now.
"We have several guys that are going to be coming up that we're going to make some decisions on next summer. Just kind of something that for us during the free agency process that we were looking at. Having some flexibility next summer to do some things with this team. Let things play out this year and see how this team comes together and see how we play and make some decisions next summer because having flexibility in this league and having new rules with the new CBA, you have to work under and plan for, it all fits in to the bigger picture of planning for this team and organization moving forward."
Is it fair to say the decisions you're talking about are "either/or" decisions? Are you ready to say that you won't be in a position to bring back all of the guys who have contracts coming up?
"It's a little too early to say. We want to continue to evaluate our team. Depending on some things you just don't know at this point. What some guy's value is going to cost. Raymond [Felton] is an example, trying to figure out what's going to be a number for him that's fair. Gerald and Jamal [Crawford] obviously have options, if they want to opt out they have that option in their contracts. Marcus Camby is coming off the books with an expiring contract, what's a fair number for him if we choose to keep Marcus?
"We've planned accordingly to have flexibility because remaining competitive is important to us but also being fiscally responsible is also very important to us. We are a business and we want to be smart with what we do from a financial standpoint."
Larry Miller reportedly said that you have been in talks with Joel Przybilla about a possible return.
"I stay in touch with Joel quite a bit because he's a close friend. We're at 15 contracts right now. I'm just keeping up to date with where he's at with things, if he desires to play again or not, but mostly just from a friendship standpoint of talking to him a lot."
Nothing imminent or close to imminent?
"Nothing imminent. Nope, nothing at all."
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