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NBA Free Agency 2012: Blazers, Timberwolves In 'Grudge Match' Over Nicolas Batum

Despite repeated trade offers from Minnesota that included up to three future first-round picks and even 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, the Portland Trail Blazers still do not want to see forward Nicolas Batum leave, says ESPN's Ric Bucher.

The Blazers offered Batum an extension last offseason that averaged around $5 million per season, but the Timberwolves are prepared to sign Batum to a four-year, $46.4 million offer sheet, according to Bucher.

Portland's front office does not believe Batum is worth upwards of $11 million per season, Bucher says, so it will seem odd if the Blazers refuse a sign-and-trade deal and allow Batum to sign a lucrative offer sheet they do not want to match.

For this reason, Bucher thinks the negotiations have turned into a political battle thanks to a lingering dispute over last year's Martell Webster trade, where Portland sent Webster to Minnesota for Ryan Gomes and the rights to Luke Babbitt, the No. 16 overall pick in 2011, despite knowing of Webster's existing back injury.

The Timberwolves' signing of former Blazers guard Brandon Roy, which would cancel Portland's insurance policy on the guard and put the Blazers back on the hook for up to $17 million, only served to anger Portland owner Paul Allen even more, according to Bucher.

For more on the Minnesota Timberwolves, head over to Canis Hoopus. Check out SBNation's dedicated NBA sitefor all news and analysis.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.