Thunder talking with 2 free agents

Darnell Mayberry Published: July 2, 2009
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In the opening hour of free agency, the Thunder targeted two players who could help solidify Oklahoma City’s inside game for the foreseeable future.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti made calls to representatives of forward Paul Millsap and center Marcin Gortat shortly after teams could begin negotiating with free agents at 11 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, according to multiple sources.

Millsap, a 6-foot-8 forward with Utah, and Gortat, a 6-foot-11 center with Orlando, both are restricted free agents, giving their teams the right to match any offer Oklahoma City presents.

Millsap, 24, and Gortat, 25, are both reserves but are considered two of the best up-and-coming big men in the league. Millsap averaged a career-high 13.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 blocks in 76 games, including 38 as a starter while filling in for injured two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer. Gortat averaged 3.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 12.6 minutes behind three-time All-Star and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.

Gortat, however, appears to be a secondary option for the Thunder behind Millsap. But sources said Wednesday the Thunder has legitimate interest in both players. Although no deals have been reached, talks with both players’ agents have been described as positive and are expected to continue.

Under league rules, teams can agree to deals but can’t officially sign players until July 8.

The Thunder is one of more than a half dozen teams that have shown interest in Millsap, who, as one source said, has received attention from a handful of teams that weren’t expected to make a run at him because of a lack of salary cap space.

During his preliminary talks with Millsap’s representatives, Presti attempted to gauge Millsap’s character and his interest in coming to Oklahoma City. Millsap’s camp was said to have questions about playing time with the Thunder and Millsap’s potential role.

Millsap’s representatives also have expressed a willingness to help the Thunder maintain its salary cap flexibility to remain in the best position possible to re-sign forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green to contract extensions before the start of the 2010-11 season.