Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
The Wolves on Tuesday committed about $43 million over the next four years, reaching agreement on new contracts with their own Chase Budinger and Oklahoma City shooting guard Kevin Martin.
In two fell swoops, Flip Saunders went a good way to fulfilling what he called the two biggest needs when took this job:
* Put shooters around Ricky Rubio. The league's worst 3-point shooting team a year ago now has brought back Budinger's corner three threat and added one of the league's most efficient scorers.
* Balance a roster that now has what Flip considers six point guards after draft night.
Finally, the Wolves have a legitimately size NBA shooting guard. If you don't believe me, check out the photo of Luke Ridnour trying to guard Martin that accompanies the news story for Wednesday's paper.
You can find that story here. There's reaction from both players when I reached them in San Diego and Ohio today.
Some quick thoughts on Tuesday's happenings:
* If you doubt whether Rick Adelman will be back this season, his influence in the wooing process with both players sugguests he's planning on being here for a least while longer.
Both players said they kept in contact with Adelman throughout the process.
* Why Martin?
One of the Wolves' top three targets went off the board Tuesday afternoon when the Clippers made a three-way deal to obtain J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee.
From there, the Wolves appear to simply have chosen Martin over O.J. Mayo despite Mayo's youth (25) and better defense, probably for a couple reasons: Adelman's history with Martin in Sacramento and Houston likely put Martin on the top of his list from the start and teams do exhaustive research on stuff like this and maybe had doubts about why both Memphis and Dallas gave up on Mayo for virtually nothing in return.
Near as I can tell the money specifics on the deals: Budinger's three-year, closer to $15 million than $16 million reported nationally, with a player option for the third year. Martin's four years, almost $28 million.
* The Wolves significantly upgraded their shooting and scoring, but with Budinger and Martin on the wing they now look defensively suscept, right?
Yes, but don't think they're done making moves yet. They still probably will have the $2.6 million "room" exception to add a player and still likely will trade either Ridnour or J.J. Barea to balance the roster further from the point guard spot and perhaps rid themselves of a $4 million-plus salary.
Here's what could happen: Root for anyone but Dallas to win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. If the Mavs don't get the big guy, Mark Cuban just might take J.J. Barea and his nearly $5 million salary back for only a draft pick or two.
Here's a couple names to remember if the Wolves can clear enough room to absorb their salaries in search for a defensive wing player: Philadelphia's Evan Turner, Washington's Trevor Ariza (who played for Adelman in Houston) and maybe even bringing back Andrei Kirilenko isn't an impossibility, either, if he doesn't get the kind of offers he was expecting.
* Don't expect talks with restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic to really percolate until Howard makes his decision.
Pek's camp will wait until then to see if anyone shut out in their Howard bid will move to their client as an alternative plan.
There's a chance he might not get a serious bid for an offer sheet from another team at all, but he still won't come cheap.
San Antonio on Tuesday reached agreement with Tiago Spliter on a 4-year, $36 million deal.
That's $9 million a year for those keeping score at home. And if Splitter is worth that, the Wolves will be lucky to get Pekovic for $12 million a year. Expect his agent to push for a near max deal, which ultimately might be hard to be hard to demand if there's no serious competition.
Flip and his staff probably will go quiet here for a few days over the Fourth of July holiday to let today's activity settle a little before working toward their next move.
Remember: We've still got eight days to go until the moratorium period ends and teams can begin signing players for real on July 10.
Andrei Kirilenko says he's well and ready to play again tonight vs. Philadelphia at Target Center after he missed five games because of a strained quad.
He predicts it will take him a couple games to get back to top form.
"I miss 10, 14 days, it takes you out of the game a little bit, but what can you do," Kirilenko said. "Right now, I feel great."
J.J. Barea also is back, from four days back home in Puerto Rico getting some warm sand therapy on sprained foot.
"It was awesome, awesome man," he said. "Great time, great weather. Spent some time with my family, so it was good times. I feel great. My foot's a lot better. I'm ready to go."
Tonight, btw, is the eve of the NBA's annual trade deadline.
Rick Adelman said before tonight's game that he doesn't expect his team -- reported to have made inquries about players ranging from Denver center Timofey Mozgov to Utah's Paul Millsap and probably every legitimately sized shooting guard on the trading block -- to make a deal.
"I don't think so, but who know," he said. "It sounds like everything's quiet right now...If nothing's out there that makes sense, we have a group that can win games. We have to go out and play like that. Trades, sometimes they happen immediately, sometimes it takes a while, sometimes they never happen at all. You see a lot of stuff in the media, but I'd say 90 is not going to go on at all."
Asked if he would told the team is making a deal, he said, "I certainly hope so. They'd definitely come to me about that."
The deadline is 2 p.m. tomorrow Twin Cities time.
One other thing:
Adelman also said he doesn't expect Brandon Roy to play again, said it'd be a "pleasant surprise" if he did.
If the Wolves don't use Roy's contract to swing a deal by tomorrow, expect them to come to some resolution about his contract and retirement sometime after that.
That Pau Gasol talk just won't go away.
And there's a good reason why the Los Angeles Lakers veteran's name just keeps coming in trade speculation concerning the Timberwolves:
Because the Wolves continue to be interested -- they have been since the 2011 draft -- and they will be until the Lakers finally trade Gasol someplace.
The lastest rumors came here on ESPN.com on Thursday in a piece that said the Lakers continue to turn away Toronto and the Wolves with their trade inquiries, at least until Lakers brass has time to assess their team when Steve Nash comes back from his leg injury.
Don't count Houston out, either, since the Rockets traded for Gasol once before and have been interested as long or almost as long as the Wolves have. I don't believe the latest speculation that the Rockets are no longer interested.
David Kahn chased Gasol three months before he hired Rick Adelman, although who knows what kind of discussion they had by then concerning the team's coaching job and is any such conversations might have included personnel talk such as acquiring Gasol.
Make no mistake: Adelman has been driving the bus on personnel moves since last summer and the Wolves' continued interest in a 32-year-old with knee tendinitis and an $18 million salary means Adelman approves of the idea, if he's not outright pushing for it.
Any such deal would have to include Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic as well as J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour just so the Wolves could give back enough salary to absorb Gasol's big contract.
And it might very well have to involve a third or fourth team to make the deal work because the Lakers, if they do indeed trade Gasol, want a power forward who can shoot -- a "stretch 4" -- to put next to Dwight Howard and have other preferred targets in sight such as Toronto's Andrea Bargnani or New Orleans' Ryan Anderson rather than Williams, who indeed is a stretch 4, just not a very consistent one so far.
Why would the Wolves do it?
A few reasons:
* The Ricky Rubio connection, for one.
* Because they believe Gasol is an All-Star calibre talent and they attribute his last couple seasons not to his age or injuries but rather because the Lakers have misused him, because they still consider him perhaps the most skilled, versatile big man around.
He'd be their starting center next to Kevin Love, a one-two All-Star punch of passing big men that, yes, you could compare to the frontcourt pair Adelman had in Sacramento with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber.
Certainly he's not the kind of physical presence inside that Pekovic is, but he is much more offensively talented and you certainly can argue after the last year that Pekovic's healthy is no sure bet even if he's six years younger.
* And perhaps because the Wolves are doing the math in their head and figuring however it works, Pekovic is destined to become overpaid and they believe $19 million on Gasol for next season's final year of his contract is money better spent than a very possible maximum or near max 4-year, $60-million plus deal Pekovic could very well receive from another team next summer.
* Gasol's window -- three, four years max -- fits perfectly with both Adelman, who won't coach more than that, and Wolves owner Glen Taylor, who intends to sell the team by then.
I'd still say it's no better than a 1-in-3 chance that the Wolves make a deal because the Lakers have other, better targets in their estimation, but get used to hearing their name in the discussion because it won't ever be over until Gasol is gone from L.A., if he ever is.
The shelf life on that Wayne Ellington-Dante Cunningham trade sure didn't last long...
Remember last Friday's blog post about Andrei Kirilenko?
The Wolves indeed are targeting the 31-year-old Russian small forward and are willing to pay him $18 million over the next two season -- with a player option for a third -- league sources tell me and are trying to deal Wes Johnson and a future 1st-round pick to make cap room for him.
Yahoo!Sports Tuesday evening reported a three-way deal between the Wolves, Phoenix and New Orleans is near.
The Hornets would get center Robin Lopez from the Suns in a sign-and-trade and the Wolves basically, it seems, would give up a first rounder to get the Suns to take the $4.3 million contract of Johnson, who they drafted fourth overall just two years ago.
The Yahoo! story also said Brad Miller would be coming back to the Wolves two weeks after they traded him to New Orleans.
I'm pretty sure NBA rules prohibit that. Miller could be headed to Phoenix instead.
The deal would still work, though, if the Wolves send away Johnson and basically get nothing back but a couple second-rounders.
Here's the story I wrote for the Wednesday paper.
That Wolves trade that has been in the works for days and days -- shooting guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis for forward Dante Cunningham -- will finally be official later today.
The Wolves are dealing away a 2009 first-round draft pick (28th overall) who was only going to see playing time this season if there were many injuries and getting back a guy who plays both forward spots and is active on defense.
Both players make almost exactly the same salary -- a little more than $2 million a season -- but the deal gives the Grizzlies another shooter and gives the Wolves a needed forward for a team that has added guards Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved but lost Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and quite possibly Anthony Tolliver from the frontcourt.
Portland drafted Cunningham 33rd overall out of Villanova in 2009 -- third pick in the second round, five picks after the Wolves took Ellington -- and traded him to Charlotte in February 2011. He signed as a restricted free agent just before the start of last season.
The Wolves also could officially announce their first free-agent signing -- Shved's -- as soon as Wednesday.
The others, including Boston center Greg Stiemsma, might not come until the Wolves line up any other moves in case they want to fit one signing into an salary-cap exception slot.
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