Start the clock. (If it hasn't run out of batteries.)
The Portland Trail Blazers informed the media on Sunday that -- after weeks of rumors and a few extra days of waiting -- GM Neil Olshey has officially received an offer sheet for restricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The offer sheet is expected to be worth a reported $46.5 million over 4 years.
Trail Blazers confirm that they have received a copy of Minnesota's offer sheet for F Nic Batum. The team will have no further comment until a final decision is reached.
Portland now has three days to decide whether or not to match Minnesota's offer and retain Batum.
Sign-and-trade talks between the teams must cease now that the offer sheet has been formally received, unless Minnesota, Portland and Batum all agree to allow the Timberwolves to rescind their offer.
The news comes hours after forward Martell Webster, who was released earlier by the Timberwolves this week, cleared waivers. Minnesota also traded center Brad Miller and used the amnesty clause on center Darko Milicic in preparation for making the offer.
Last week, Olshey told Batum and agent Bouna Ndiaye that the team would match any offers and would not agree to a sign-and-trade.
On Monday, Olshey hedged on that, refusing to repeat that declaration to a group of reporters and instead saying he would do what's in the best interests of the Blazers in the short-term and long-term. At least one writer believed Olshey could be interested in pursuing a sign-and-trade now after the Blazers were unable to acquire Indiana Pacers restricted free agent center Roy Hibbert. No deal developed, despite days of rumors.
On Wednesday, Olshey repeated Portland's desire to retain Batum no matter what.
In recent weeks, Ndiaye made numerous comments indicating that his client would prefer to play for the Timberwolves rather than the Blazers next season. He even said that it Batum's "dream" to play in Minnesota.
After declining to comment for some time, Batum finally went public, saying that he wouldn't be upset if he returned to the Blazers in one interview while also confirming his desire to play in Minnesota in another, calling the Timberwolves his "first choice." Batum also denied a report that he was so unhappy with the Blazers that he wanted "no part" of returning.
Batum said back in April that he was "99 percent" sure that the Blazers would match any offer made to him and the team's ownership and management has consistently referred to him as one of the roster's core pieces. The Blazers extended a qualifying offer to Batum back in June.
Batum, 23, averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in 30.4 minutes for the Blazers last season.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter