MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves continued their free-agency pursuits on Tuesday, still wooing Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in Minneapolis with the prospect of a four-year offer sheet worth $45 million or more and agreeing by phone with restricted free-agent center Greg Stiemsma’s agent that the two parties are a “good fit” for each other.
Comcast SportsNet in Portland reported Batum told the Trail Blazers on Tuesday that he does not want to return to the team.
Shortly thereafter, Batum tweeted, “Trust me I didn’t.”
If true, it’s probably a negotiating move intended to dissuade Portland from matching an offer sheet or provoke a sign-and-trade agreement in which the Wolves would send players and/or draft pick(s) away for the 6-8 swingman who would address needs at both small forward and shooting guard.
Batum arrived in Minnesota on Sunday and remained in town Tuesday with his agent. No contracts can be signed or players traded until July 11, and Portland then would have three days to match the Wolves’ offer if no sign-and-trade agreement is reached.
The Wolves called Chicago-based agent Mike Naiditch at 11:01 p.m. on Saturday, one minute into NBA’s free agency period, and inquired about Stiemsma, a 6-11 center who spent the 2010 offseason with them. He came to town for a visit Sunday morning.
The Wolves also are believed to have continued a dialogue with Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill’s agent on Tuesday. He visited on Monday.
Boston has the right to match any offer for Stiemsma, who they signed as a free agent before last season started. But the Celtics might not have the money to do so after re-signing Kevin Garnett, and if they sign Dallas guard Jason Terry to an offer sheet and/or re-sign Ray Allen.
The Celtics would have until July 14 to match any offer if Stiemsma signs an offer sheet on July 11. The timeline for signing any center to an offer sheet could be delayed until the futures of restricted free-agent centers Roy Hibbert and Omer Asik are decided first.
Naiditch said he talked some contract numbers with Kahn, none of it formal and no offer has been made.
The Wolves also are pursuing unrestricted free agent Brandon Roy and have expressed interest in a number of unrestricted free agents, including Allen, Russian guard Alexey Shved, Philadelphia guard Lou Williams, Portland guard Jamal Crawford and possibly Memphis guard O.J. Mayo.
They also are believed to still have considerable interest in acquiring Lakers power forward Pau Gasol and could choose to pursue Houston shooting guard Courtney Lee, who played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman with the Rockets and on Tuesday became an unrestricted free agent when the Rockets withdrew his qualifying offer.
—Wolves All-Star forward Kevin Love will train with the U.S. Olympic team on Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas. The final 12-man roster will be named Saturday on NBA TV.