The Timberwolves covered California in the first day of the NBA’s free-agency period that began late Sunday.
New basketball boss Flip Saunders lined up visits with such top shooting guards as O.J. Mayo and J.J. Redick in Los Angeles while basketball administration director Rob Babcock knocked on Wolves unrestricted free agent Chase Budinger’s San Diego door as soon as the clock struck 9 p.m. in California.
The Wolves also contacted veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin’s representatives Sunday night as well. He played for coach Rick Adelman in Houston and Sacramento.
Yahoo! Sports reported Monday night that the Wolves have extended four-year offers to both Redick and Budinger, and it called signing Redick the team’s “priority.”
Saunders has called Budinger and restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic his top priorities during a negotiating period when no player can sign until the NBA’s new salary cap is finalized on July 10.
“We had a nice, casual talk,” Budinger said Monday about Babcock’s visit the night before. “It definitely shows they’re interested. It definitely meant something on a personal level.”
Yahoo! reported the Wolves, Milwaukee and New Orleans, among others, are chasing Chase in negotiations that will mean a big raise for a former second-round pick, one who earned $942,000 last season in the last year of his rookie contract signed in 2009.
He could earn $4 million or more a year with his new contract, even after missing four months last season because of November knee surgery.
The Lakers also called Budinger’s agent Sunday night to express interest, but they can only offer a mini mid-level exception slot of $3.2 million.
The Clippers also seek a shooting guard and reportedly are angling to obtain Mayo or Redick through a sign-and-trade arrangement with Dallas and Milwaukee, respectively.
The Wolves would do one with either team by sending away either Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea, but the Clippers have the better chance of swinging such a deal if they are willing to offer prized point guard Eric Bledsoe.
Unlike their negotiations with Pekovic, the Wolves don’t own the right to match any offer for Budinger. But they are hopeful Budinger’s relationship with Adelman influences him.
“They know how I feel,” Budinger said from San Diego. “I love Rick. I love the guys there. I love playing in the system. So I’d definitely love to be there. Rick knows how I play and how I fit in with that system he has. It definitely plays to my strength.”
Budinger likely will sign a four-year contract, but Adelman, at 67, might only coach another year or two.
Asked if that discrepancy makes a difference, he said, “Not much. If he’s only there two years, what we have there with Minnesota is creating a group of guys that have been there that many years. So what you’re trying to do is build relationships with players so you can win a championship.”
As of Monday afternoon, Budinger said he hadn’t met with any other teams in person and didn’t know if any would be scheduled. He visited with Saunders in Los Angeles last week.
Budinger didn’t know how long it will take to strike a deal, but he acknowledged it’s not such a bad thing to have multiple teams offering him millions of dollars.
“It’s a good time in my life,” he said.