Nicolas Batum has developed into a solid contributor in Portland, and the Blazers want to keep the 4th year forward long-term. Reports the Oregonian: “The Trail Blazers have taken the first step toward signing forward Nicolas Batum to a long-term contract extension, sending his representatives a formal letter of intention to discuss an extension. In the letter, the Blazers said they plan on beginning discussions for a new deal after the first of the year, according to Batum’s agent, Bouna Ndiyae, so the sides expect formal dialogue to begin around Jan. 1. The Blazers have until Jan. 25 to sign Batum to an extension or they will have to wait until June 30, when Batum would become a restricted free agent. The Blazers insist that extending Batum is a priority and Batum, likewise, has expressed a strong desire to remain in Portland, so the sides are optimistic negotiations will go smoothly. ‘I spoke to Nic last week and told him that he doesn’t need to be worried about it,’ Blazers interim GM Chad Buchanan said. ‘We’re going to take care of him. We have a large window to get something done. He just needs to go out and play and everything will work out.’ The Blazers can offer Batum up to a five-year extension, but that would require they give him a maximum contract, which seems unlikely. The Blazers can only have one player on their roster tied to a maximum deal. It seems more probable the sides would discuss a three-or four-year extension and Ndiyae said Batum is open to signing a long-term deal under the right circumstances. ‘Depending on the numbers,’ Ndiyae said. ‘I think we’re going to wait and see what they have in mind and go from there. We’ll see. We don’t mind going long term.’”