Determined to make the first splash of the NBA's free-agent negotiating period early Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers are making a strong push to sign Hedo Turkoglu, the prized free agent of the summer.
While negotiations across the league were in the early stages, a person with knowledge of the discussions said the Blazers are trying to lure Turkoglu with a deal in the $50-million range. Contracts cannot be signed until July 7, when the annual moratorium on signing and trading players is lifted.
Other teams expected to make a play for Turkoglu, who earned a huge pay day by helping Orlando get to the NBA Finals, were Toronto, Detroit, and Sacramento. The Magic, who acquired Vince Carter from the Nets on the belief that they could not retain Turkoglu, are not expected to be a factor in a situation that involves Turkoglu getting $10 million a year.
UPDATE: Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby, told the Oregonian that the Blazers were the first team to call. "They were enthusiastic and well received by us," Babby said. "We are engaged in the process. We will see where it takes us in the next couple of days and take it from there."
GM Kevin Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn first called Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are seeking extensions from the team, the Oregonian reported. In order to clear cap space for Turkoglu, the Blazers likely would have to renounced their rights to both Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen, both playing overseas.
UPDATE: Several team executives confirmed the Blazers' interest in Turkoglu Wednesday. But as is usually the case, the Blazers were operating in somewhat of a clandestine environment. One agent who has been in contact with numerous teams since the free-agent bell rang at 12:01 a.m. said Blazers officials insist the talks with Turkoglu were still in the developing stages. It's difficult to imagine where Turkoglu would do better than the Blazers, though. The Pistons, according to sources, are targeting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Oklahoma City -- another rare team with cap space -- appears to be focused on restricted free agent Paul Millsap or New York's David Lee.