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.

Wolves' Kirilenko opts out, becomes unrestricted free agent

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves management, Wolves players, Wolves news Updated: June 29, 2013 - 11:27 AM

Andrei Kirilenko turned down $10.2 million guaranteed for next season for the right to negotiate, at age 32, a multi-year extension with any NBA team, including the Wolves.

Kirilenko's agent, Marc Fleisher, said by text this morning that his client has decided to become a free agent.

Kirilenko had until today to make up his mind on an option year for next season and he went down to the final day before deciding from the south of France.

The Wolves still could re-sign their starting small forward from last season.

Kirilenko is seeking a three- or four-year extension because he believes this might be the last chance to negotiate the last big contract of his career.

You can bet Flip Saunders won't offer anything more than two years, and at a salary considerably less than $10 million.

Kirilenko's decision now gives the Wolves the opton to use that money to pursue a starting small forward or shooting guard -- Dallas unrestrictred free agent O.J. Mayo is a likely target -- through free agency or a trade.

The team's selection of UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad Thursday night was an indicator that Saunders believed Kirilenko would opt out.

The NBA's free-agency period begins Sunday night at 11:01 p.m. Twin Cities time and Saunders has said the team's top priority is re-signing restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic.

He also wants to re-sign unrestricted free agent Chase Budinger.

Saunders said Friday he will be on the road Sunday recruiting and is expected to visit Budinger in San Diego early in the free-agency period.

Don't be surprised if he's on the doorstep of Mayo or another free agent Sunday night.

If Kirilenko had accepted the $10.2 million, Saunders said the Wolves said the Wolves would not have much money to improve the roster beyond trying to re-sign Pekovic and Budinger.

Now he said it's possible the Wolves could clear enough money to make a free agent an offer beyond the $5 million mid-level salary exception slot.

"There things that can be done," he said. "We're playing that out right now."

They're trying to trade Luke Ridnour and/or J.J. Barea to clear one of their $4 million-plus salaries and will waive backup center Greg Stiemsma before his $2.5 million contract becomes guaranteed for next season.

If they can include Chris Johnson's contract  -- David Kahn signed him for next season unannounced before he was fired in April -- they certainly will, too.

 

 

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