Zgoda's NBA Insider: Big Al knows big contracts

  • Updated: January 6, 2013 - 11:15 AM

Although Kevin Love's ex-teammate thinks his pal should have gotten a five-year deal, he says it's time to move on.


Kevin Love and Utah's Al Jefferson

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

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Former Timberwolves star Al Jefferson knows a little something about the art -- and consequences -- of negotiating a big, multi-year contract that changes lives.

Five years ago, he rushed through a departing heavy-metal Target Center concert crowd to sign against his agent's advice a $65 million deal at the 11th hour on Halloween night 2007.

Here in 2012, former teammate Kevin Love might have altered his season's course when he once again voiced his displeasure -- this time through Yahoo!Sports last month -- with a four-year, $61 million-plus contract he signed last winter after the Wolves refused to offer the prized five-year extension he wanted.

Ever since then, many Wolves fans have called for Love to just shut up and play through a season that thus far has been marred by injury, lousy shooting and his own indiscretion.

Jefferson agrees with the just-play part.

"To me, he accepted the deal," Jefferson said. "He signed the deal; move on from it."

Jefferson now is playing out the final season of that $65 million deal his agent wanted him to reject so he could become a restricted free agent the next summer and receive a bigger, maximum-contract offer sheet from the Wolves or another team.

Jefferson insisted, later saying he felt loyalty to a franchise that traded away Kevin Garnett to Boston for him. He also said back then that he didn't feel his young career merited a maximum contract. "That was the right decision for me," he said.

Jefferson, by the way, agrees the Wolves should have offered Love their singular "designated player" slot, an $80 million distinction Houston gave James Harden days after they acquired him from Oklahoma City in October.

"Most definitely, I felt like he should have got the fifth year; I feel he's that type of player," Jefferson said. "But they didn't offer it to him. They didn't give it to him, and he still decided to take it. It was his decision to sign the deal.

"You don't want the deal? Don't take the deal. But I don't know, I don't talk to Love about it. I'm pretty sure he had his own reason why he said what he said. But he's a smart kid."

Jefferson's agent, Jeff Schwartz, also is Love's agent, and he also is the agent for Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, who is due to sign a rich extension himself next summer.

"I know my agent, and that isn't a deal you'd want to leave on the table," Jefferson said of Love's nearly $62 million contract.

Love can opt out of the four-year contract after three seasons, in summer 2015. He'll be 26.

"He's still going to be a young guy," said Jefferson, "... so he can hit 'em again. That's the way I look at it."

Meanwhile, Wolves fans have turned against their two-time All-Star. More than a few of them decided after Thursday's comeback victory at Denver -- in which Love was injured -- that their team plays better without its best player.

"I don't know what you call struggling," Jefferson said of a season in which Love still is averaging 18.3 points and 14 rebounds a game. "To me, it's out of respect that he's out there playing through it. Some people who already got their big contract have that type of situation and they'll just rest it.

"But he's the type of guy who loves the game and wants to be out there with his teammates. It's out of respect to play through it, because it's going to get better."


A tall tale

Anybody who's ever talked with Denver coach George Karl knows he's a great storyteller, and he thinks there's one to tell with Wolves starting center Nikola Pekovic.

"There's a story line," Karl said last week. "No one wants to write about that kid. That kid is big. He's tough. He's a big tree in there who knows how to finish. He rebounds a little bit and he's trying to be a defensive presence. His foot speed is bad, but he's trying to zone up and play, like Marc Gasol a little bit, take up space."

The new Showtime

The Los Angeles Clippers' franchise-record, 17-game winning streak -- the longest since Boston won 19 in a row in 2008 -- ended last week with consecutive losses to Denver and Golden State. But they're still winning over newfound believers, including a few in some unexpected places.

Magic Johnson has compared the Clippers to his Lakers' "Showtime" teams of the 1980s, and Kobe Bryant agrees and calls them a top contender.

"They're very spectacular, and they're fun to watch," Bryant told reporters. "There's no question about it. They have higher jumpers than 'Showtime' did, though."

After Ricky comes Rose

Injured Chicago star Derrick Rose accompanied the team on a road trip to Orlando last week for the first time since tearing his ACL in the playoffs last April.

He is on the same course as Ricky Rubio, only about six weeks behind because of the timing of their injuries. Rose has been participating in noncontact parts of practice over the past couple of weeks, but he still could be weeks away from contact practice.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called Rose's court presence during Wednesday's shootaround "the next step" toward a return that likely will be sometime around the All-Star break.


Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Atlanta (FSN)

Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Okla. City (Ch. 29)

Friday: 7 p.m. at New Orleans (FSN)

Player to watch

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

You want to see the definition of "unstoppable?" This guy -- third in the NBA in scoring with a 28.4-ppg average and still probably the one you'd want above anybody else with the ball in his hands and the game on the line -- is it.


« If I could have, I might have walked off, too. »

Wolves coach Rick Adelman when asked about center Greg Stiemsma heading straight to the locker room after fouling out in just eight minutes during Wednesday's putrid loss at Utah.

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    Saturday January 5, 2013

    Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Atlanta (FSN)

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