Joe Freeman of The Oregonian has a season preview piece on Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who says he's not feeling pressure now that he has a new contract and offers some insight into this summer's machinations, which included some tense back-and-forth moments after he expressed a preference for signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves instead of the Blazers.
By the time the day [July 1] ended, Batum says, 16 teams had called his agent, Bouna Ndiaye, to express interest. Minnesota, New Orleans, Toronto and Cleveland were most aggressive. And despite what you might think, Minnesota did not offer the most money. A source with knowledge of Batum's free agency says Cleveland offered a whopping $52 million.
"That was exciting," Batum says. "At this time, I didn't know what the rest of the league was thinking about me. I knew the Blazers loved me, wanted to keep me, but I didn't know what the other teams were thinking about me. I wanted to know who I am in this league. On July 1st, I was like, 'Wow.' "
Olshey had said on multiple occasions the Blazers would match any offer sheet for Batum. But was he bluffing? Batum didn't know.
"The thing is, I wanted to challenge them," he says. "Because I'm European. And when people say, 'We love you,' they show you they love you. That's a stupid European, French thing. But it's true. After what happened in January, I wanted them to show me they loved me."
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter