ChrisHaynes, CSNNW.com Trail Blazers Insider (@ChrisBHaynes)
Tosay that the Portland Trail Blazers and Bouna Ndiaye (Nicolas Batum'sagent) have had their share of differences would be anunderstatement.
Batum is a restricted free agent and will be one ofthe most coveted players come Saturday night at 9 p.m., PDT.
Now,in an attempt to maintain leverage, Ndiaye has instructed TrailBlazers general manager, Neil Olshey, not to speak with Batum and hehasn't done so since becoming the team's general manager.
Outof respect for Bouna, I haven't spoken to Nicolas because it's notright, Olshey told CSNNW.com. If he (Ndiaye) gives mepermission to talk to him, I will. But, he wants to control theprocess and I understand that.
Former acting general manager, Chad Buchanan, was the one handling Batum's deal during the season and now Olshey has to step right in the middle of an intense and delicate situation.
Bounais an aggressive agent. He's got a client he cares deeply about andthey've had a relationship for a really long time, Olshey said.His job is to be an advocate for his client. But I think Bounaunderstands that I inherited Nicolas. It's not like negotiations withme broke down months ago. I got here three weeks ago, he knows he's(Batum) a priority.
ButI think he (Ndiaye) also needs to understand that we have a freeagent strategy that's depended on how we handle things with Nicolas,could impact the balance of the roster. And we got to have theflexibility to handle that.
Therift between the Trail Blazers and Ndiaye all started back in Januarywhen the two were having difficulties coming to terms on anextension. CSNNW.com reported during negotiations at the time, that asource close to the situation said the Trail Blazers made Batum alow-ball offer.
Whennegotiations eventually fell through, Ndiaye had this to say toCSNNW.com, When Batumbecomes a restricted free agent, we'll look at the other 29 teamsbefore we talk to the Blazers. The Blazers had their chance."
Later,the Trail Blazers revealed their preference of order during freeagency. The plan was and still is to pick up some key free agentsusing available cap space before they tend to Batum's deal becausethey have his Bird Rights and can go over the cap to retain him.Batum signing an early offer sheet with a team could ruin the TrailBlazers' plans.
Ndiayewould go on to tell CSNNW.com, Thefirst good offer we get, we're going with that. We're not waitingfor anything.
Andearly this week, the Trail Blazers extended a qualifying offer toBatum and Olshey compared Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge to the tandemin Los Angeles with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
WhenNdiaye was asked about that comparison by the Oregonian,he went on to say, Ilike that. Give me Chris Paul money and we will not be fighting toolong. Just close your eyes and choose between Chris Paul and BlakeGriffin and Ill be fine with that. Give me one of those contractsand youll have a deal.
Itappears Olshey has stepped into a bit of a mess. However, he'sconfident that at the end of the day, Batum will be a Trail Blazerand he's not going to allow anyone to deter them from their strategicplan.
Nicolasis going to be here and we'll get something done, but it's got to bedone sequentially to make sure we maximize our flexibility in freeagency, Olshey said.
DeAndreJordan doesn't get to play with Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups ifwe had put the cart before the horse. So, there' a subsequential paththat we're going to follow as we build the roster. The draft is stepone, free agency is step two, and the first opportunity where it won'timpact our cap situation in terms of free agent flexibility, we'llreengage with Bouna to get something done.