Wolves close in on vet Kirilenko

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2012 - 12:00 PM

Minnesota moved closer to a deal for the Russian and sent away Wes Johnson, drafted fourth overall in 2010.

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Andrei Kirilenko, left, of Russia battled Serbia during the 2011 European Baskeball Championships. Kirilenko played in Russia during the NBA lockout last season but reportedly agreed on a two-year deal with the Timberwolves on Wednesday.

Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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With a flurry of activity on Wednesday, the Wolves completed their part in a three-team trade with New Orleans and Phoenix and were closing in on a two-year contract with veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko.

A source confirmed to the Star Tribune that the three-team trade meant that the Wolves would send Wes Johnson -- the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft who is due $4.3 million next season -- and a first-round draft pick to Phoenix. The first-round choice is Memphis' lottery-protected 2013 pick, previously acquired by the Wolves.

In return, the Wolves get multiple second-round draft picks from New Orleans.

Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn continued to rework his roster, ending the Johnson era in Minnesota in the process. Finally the Wolves were able to pull off a big move not long after failing to pluck Nicolas Batum away from Portland.

Yahoo!Sports reported, and the Star Tribune confirmed, that the Wolves were finalizing a two-year, $20 million contract with Kirilenko.

This is the big move fans have been waiting for since free agency began. If it comes to fruition, it would indicate that much of the Wolves' offseason heavy lifting might be done.

Kirilenko, 31, played 10 years in the NBA -- all in Utah -- before signing with CSKA Moscow for last season. Also Wednesday the Wolves announced the signing of Russian guard Alexey Shved, a Kirilenko teammate last season.

In Kirilenko the Wolves get a 31-year-old veteran who should provide an upgrade at the small forward position, a position coach Rick Adelman badly wanted addressed.

On a teleconference with the media to announce the Shved signing, Kahn declined to comment on the reported trade. "I can't,'' he said. "Nothing has been consummated at all." He also declined to speak about Kirilenko.

The addition of Kirilenko means a major shift in the Wolves' roster, while at the same time ending Johnson's time with the team.

The 6-9 Kirilenko brings a well-rounded game to the Wolves, though he did have some injury issues in his final seasons in Utah. He is a strong defender, a good rebounder and an able playmaker. In 10 seasons with the Jazz he averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Playing for CSKA Moscow last season Kirilenko averaged 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in Russian League play.

It has been a busy month for the Wolves, who acquired Chase Budinger in a trade with Houston, have agreed to terms with center Greg Stiemsma and signed Shved. But it was the process of shedding salaries to create cap space that allowed the team to pursue Kirilenko, who had announced his intention to return to the NBA. Both he and Shved are playing for the Russian Olympic team in London.

On Tuesday, Kirilenko told Russian news agency R-Sport that he would return to the NBA this fall and that he would decide on a team "in a day or two."

It appears that team will be the Wolves.

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