Wolves close to signing Mavs playoff standout

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2011 - 6:53 AM

J.J. Barea could be a Wolf as soon as Tuesday.

J.J. Barea

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

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NBA Finals star J.J. Barea isn't officially a signed Timberwolves player yet, but his former coach already is talking as if he is.

The Wolves and Barea on Monday were negotiating the details of a four-year contract that ESPN.com reported will pay him $19 million.

"I'm happy that he's able to experience that kind of a payday, because what he did here for the last three years has earned him that," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told Dallas-area reporters Monday. "He'll be a terrific player for the Timberwolves."

Even though the Wolves hadn't confirmed the signing Monday night, their website listed Barea on its roster.

The Mavericks offered a one-year contract to return to the defending NBA champions because they want to keep their future salary-cap options open. New York, among other teams, also pursued him, but was able to offer only a two-year, $5 million slot.

The Wolves are offering Barea, 27, significantly more money and guaranteed years to play for a team that already has point guards Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour.

Barea proved to be a plucky reserve last spring, changing playoff games with his ability to penetrate defenses with his dribbling and either score with strength going to the basket or finding teammates open for outside shots.

The Wolves searched for a ball-handling, playmaking guard, although they might have preferred a classic 6-6 shooting guard.

"Not only is he a really good basketball player, but he's got a great keen team vibe," Carlisle said. "And he's just a great chemistry player, too. The kind of intangibles that he has will be something that'll really help their development of their younger guys."

Join the club

Barea and Wolves forward Michael Beasley belong to a special, select fraternity: Both were victims of cheap shots that got Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum suspended last season.

Bynum was suspended for two games for whacking Beasley with a forearm during a regular-season game in March. He was suspended for the first five games this season for throwing an elbow into Barea's ribs with the Lakers trailing by 32 points late in the final game of the Mavs' four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals in May.

"He got suspended for both of them, right?" Wolves forward Kevin Love said. "They have something in common then."

Investing in Lee

Rookie guard Malcolm Lee is believed to have signed a guaranteed three-year contract -- relatively rare for a second-round pick -- with the Wolves.

Lee has impressed so far with his athleticism, defensive grit and the ability to play both guard positions. And at 6-5, he's good size for a combo guard.

He did not practice Monday after doing so the first three days of training camp because the NBA players union set out a notice advising unsigned rookies not to practice until their contracts are finalized. Lee's signing gives the Wolves 16 players under guaranteed contracts. They can only have 15 on the roster on opening night.


• Memphis restricted free agent Marc Gasol agreed to terms with the Grizzlies on a four-year, nearly $58 million contract extension. That's the most Memphis could have paid per year and would seem to help set the market for Love to receive a maximum contract from the Wolves. Love, Beasley and Anthony Randolph are eligible to sign extensions with the Wolves in the coming weeks.

• Veteran guard Bonzi Wells continues to wait for FIBA to clear paperwork that will allow him to work out with the Wolves on a make-good contract. Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he is hopeful Wells and free-agent guard Will Conroy, who is in a similar situation, will be cleared to practice by Tuesday.

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