Deadline is big -- for Wolves and Love

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 22, 2011 - 12:08 AM

Jan. 25 is the date by which a few stars -- including Love -- could get maximum extensions.

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MILWAUKEE - Chicago Bulls point guard and 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose on Tuesday agreed to a five-year, $94 million contract, a rare sum for a fourth-year player because of a new labor-agreement written purposely for him.

Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love is among those next in line.

Rose, Love, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, New Orleans' Eric Gordon and New Jersey's Brook Lopez, among others, are those from the 2008 draft class eligible to sign an extension of their rookie contracts by a Jan. 25 deadline.

None -- with the possible exception of Westbrook -- will be able to sign for the $94 million that Rose reached because of that MVP season a year ago.

But in a market where big men Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Nene just signed new contracts that will pay them between $13 million and $14 million per year, Love could receive a maximum contract that would pay him as much as $82 million over five years.

Especially if he continues to play like he did Wednesday night, scoring 22 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, including 10 points in the final two minutes, in a 85-84 exhibition victory over Milwaukee.

"I'm sure we'll be talking about it," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said, referring to team owner Glen Taylor, basketball president David Kahn and other top team executives.

Adelman accepted the job in September in good measure because of a relationship with Love that dates to his high school years in Portland, where he played on the same team as Adelman's son.

"When I talked to them about this job, the understanding was we'll all sit down and we're all going to talk about where we go with it," Adelman said. "He's a key part of this team. Obviously, he's come into camp in very, very good shape. That decision really comes down to Glen. He's the one who has to pay the salary and make that kind of commitment.

"But certainly we'll give our input on where we think we are with him. I don't know the economics of it all. I probably won't get involved in that, but I will give my opinion on where I think he stands with the team now and in the future."

The NBA's new labor agreement allows every team to designate one player coming off his rookie contract to whom it can offer a five-year, maximum salary contract extension. The team can offer raises in excess of 7 percent annually while all other teams can only offer four years and 4-plus percent raises.

It's a new policy intended to allow teams -- particularly those in smaller markets -- to keep their star players in a league where LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and now Chris Paul all have left such markets either by free-agent signing or forcing a trade by threatening to leave via free agency.

Kahn said again Tuesday night in Milwaukee that he will not discuss any contract negotiations with Love's agent publicly, other than to call the matter "very important" and say he expects Love will play for the Wolves for "many, many" years.

If Love does not sign an extension by Jan. 25, he will become a restricted free agent next summer.

The Wolves then could match any other team's offer. Or Love could then elect to accept a one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team in summer 2013.

Asked Wednesday if he's decided he will seek a maximum contract, Love said, "Not really. I'm still thinking things through. It's just going to depend on what they think is right and what me and my agent decide as well. We'll look at the scenarios."

One thing to keep in mind: Love's agent is Jeff Schwartz, who represented Al Jefferson in his negotiations with the Wolves four years ago.

Jefferson signed a five-year, $65 million extension just scant minutes before the deadline and later said Schwartz had urged him to hold out for a maximum contract offer.

Love grew up in Oregon and spends his summers in Los Angeles, where he played one season at UCLA.

He speaks freely about his love of California, but said the Wolves' recent moves -- signing point guard Ricky Rubio and Adelman, namely -- will influence his decision whether to stay with a franchise that won only 56 games in his first three NBA seasons.

"That helped the situation, with [Adelman] here, with Ricky coming over and the youthful group that we have," Love said. "That's definitely helped. But until the time comes, I can't really say I've decided."

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