Free agent center Roy Hibbert is now leaning toward wanting to play with the Portland Trail Blazers next season, a day after the restricted free agent got a verbal commitment from the Blazers that they would tender a four-year, $58 million offer sheet to him, the maximum he can receive under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources confirmed Sunday.
Hibbert, acquired by the Indiana Pacers (from the Toronto Raptors) on Draft day in 2008, had long expressed his desire to remain with the team that traded for him and helped him develop into an All-Star last season. But the 25-year-old was apparently blown away by the presentation made Saturday in Washington, D.C., by the Blazers’ contingent, which included Portland’s new general manager, Neil Olshey.
The Pacers would still be able to match any offer for Hibbbert when the July moratorium expires, but teams generally work out deals for players who express a specific desire to be elsewhere once they become free agents.
The Pacers are still likely to match the offer, because Hibbert has become one of the league’s top centers and his skills as a passing big man are a rare commodity in the NBA these days. But a source indicated Sunday that the organization would have to take a look at the offer before making a definitive commitment.
The team’s owner, Herb Simon, has OK’d a decision to go either way depending on what the team’s new basketball operations group, led by team president Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard (Portland’s GM from 2007-10), ultimately recommend.
The Pacers are also looking at adding guard help in free agency, having had discussions with Hornets restricted free agent (and Indiana native) Eric Gordon, as well as the Grizzlies’ unrestricted free agent guard O.J. Mayo. Indiana also hopes to resign its own starting point guard, George Hill.
The Blazers’ attempt at signing Hibbert could complicate their hopes of retaining their own restricted free agent, forward Nicolas Batum. Batum did not get a contract extension from the Blazers before last season’s deadline for such deals, and said he would explore other offers before deciding what to do. Batum met over the weekend with representatives from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but had not yet received an offer as of Sunday afternoon, according to a source.
SI.com first reported the proposed deal between the Blazers and Hibbert, and Hibbert’s interest.