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.
Reports out of Phoenix and from ESPN.com this afternoon say the Timberwolves are willing to pay restricted-free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe a maximum 4-year, $63 million contract that they aren't willing to give Ricky Rubio.
The Wolves are well over the salary cap and in no position to make such an offer outright, not without acquring Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with his current team, the Phoenix Suns.
That's where things get tricky for a deal that doesn't seem to be there right now.
The Wolves currently are in the same situation with Rubio as the Suns are with Bledsoe, trying to reach agreement on a contract extension with a point guard whose camp believes he's worth much more than the team believes.
It's unlikely the Suns would accept Rubio back in a straight swap, especially considering they already have point guards Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas and considering they'd be back in the same situation with Rubio as they are with Bledsoe.
Bledsoe reportedly has rejected the Suns' four-year, $48 million offer and is prepared to pay out this season to become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn't get a max deal.
If the Wolves pay Bledsoe that max deal, Rubio's agents probably wouldn't accept anything less than the same.
The Wolves owe the Suns their protected first-round pick in 2015, and could reduce or eliminate that protection to help sweeten a deal that would have to includes salaries to match Bledsoe's $15 million-plus average salary. The Wolves also have a $6 million-plus trade exception gained from the Kevin Love deal they could apply to acquire Bledsoe.
The Suns don't appear to have any interest in Rubio or center Nikola Pekovic, who makes $12 million a season, and the Wolves wouldn't have any interest in surrendering any of their young players -- Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng -- that the Suns might like.
Bledsoe's name came up in trade discussions when the Suns pursue Love before the Wolves traded their three-time All Star to Cleveland last month.
The Timberwolves have completed their training camp roster by signing former Baylor guard Brady Heslip and 7-1 center Kyrylo Fesenko, who played last year in the D-league. Both players were on the Wolves’ summer league roster.
Heslip and Fesenko are among a group of players who have been working out this week at Target Center. Veterans Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and Robbie Hummel have been joined by rookies Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III.
Wiggins and LaVine both said they have made the move to Minnesota along with their families.
“I can’t cook,’’ Wiggins said. “So whenever I need food, I can go to their house.’’
On the business side, Wolves General Manager Milt Newton said he’s “in constant contact’’ with guard Ricky Rubio’s agent.
If Rubio doesn't sign a contract extension by the end of October, he will become a restricted free agent next summer and the Wolves would have the right to match any offer he receives. Newton said the sides differ on salary numbers at the present time.
“”Until that right number comes up, I guess we’ll continue to talk,’’ he said.
Newton said signing Rubio now would be a show of “good will and trust’’ in the point guard.
“I feel optimistic,’’ Newton said. “Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here.’’
The Wolves have agreed to contract terms with one of the last unfinished pieces to a remade roster: A source with knowledge of the situation confirms a Yahoo!Sports report this afternoon that Robinson has agreed to a guaranteed contract.
Once considered a first-round pick, Robinson was drafted 40th overall by the Wolves in the June draft and played for their Vegas Summer League team without being signed until now.
His signing to a contract that is at least partially guaranteed means the Wolves they'll have to make a personnel move by opening night Oct. 29 to get to a 15-man roster, either by waiving Robinson if he doesn't win a spot in camp or, probably more likely by trading or buying out reserve guard J.J Barea by the start of training camp on Sept. 30 or by the season opener at Memphis.
The Wolves will open training camp in Mankato with a midnight-madness event that will be carried live on NBA TV.
Their "Dunks After Dark" extravaganza will be held late Monday night, September 29 in Mankato after the team conducts its traditional media-day activities at Target Center that afternoon.
Doors at Minnesota-State Mankato's Bresnan Arena open at 11 p.m. and the program that will feature a scrimmage and a dunk contest between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine begins right after midnight.
Tickets are free, but you need one and they'll be available at the school's Student Union Center that Monday morning starting at 10:30 a.m.
The Wolves also are expected to announce soon plans for a Sunday afternoon scrimmage that will end camp on Oct. 5.
The Timberwolves will have a new D League affiliate this season after having an arrangement with the Iowa Energy last season and the Sioux Falls Skyforce for the seven seasons before that.
This year, they will send players to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in Indiana.
That's right, the Mad Ants.
If the Fort Wayne team has room for that Wolves player or players.
See, the Mad Ants are the only independent D League team left, that is the only one that doesn't have a single affiliatation agreement with a NBA team.
The Detroit Pistons (Grand Rapids), Memphis Grizzlies (Iowa), New York (Westchester), Orlando (Erie), Phoenix (Bakersfield) and Utah (Idaho) are entered into affiliations with D League teams this summer.
That leaves Fort Wayne as the only one left for the other 13 NBA teams.
The NBA has implemented a new "flexible assignment system" that will allow those 13 NBA teams to still send players in the D League.
If the Mad Ants already have the maximum of four assigned NBA players on their roster or two assigned players at the same position as the Wolves players, the Wolves can send their player to any D League team willing to take him.
The Wolves will choose from any D League teams willing to accept their player. If no D League team volunteers, a lottery will send the player to a non- NBA owned, single-affiliate D League team.
Seven of the 17 single-affiliate D League teams are fully owned and operated by their NBA club. NBA are operated under a hybrid system, in which the NBA team funds and manages the D League's team basketball operations but local ownership has control of the team's business and community-relations departments.
Players in the first three years of their NBA career can be assigned to a D League team an unlimited number of times during the season. Players with more than three years' NBA experience can be sent to the D League with both their consent and the NBA Players Association's consent.
Flip Saunders has expressed interest in being part of a hybrid arrangement with a D League team so the Wolves could install their own coach who'd run the NBA team's offensive and defensive systems and the Wolves also could groom coaches and front-office personnel there. He'd prefer it'd be a short drive from the Twin Cities -- say Rochester or St. Cloud or perhaps even Duluth, for example -- so a player could practice with the Wolves in the morning and still play a D League home game at night.
That idea is on the back burner for now, both because Saunders has been plenty busy with many other things and because the supply for available D League teams obviously is running thin.
On other matters with training camp now fewer than two weeks away...
The Wolves will tip-off their camp week in Mankato with a midnight-madness event late Monday night, at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday Sept. 30 actually after the team holds its annual media day at Target Center Monday afternoon.
They also will have a Sunday afternoon scrimmage on Oct. 5 in Mankato before they break camp.
Both events will be open to the public.
Look for more information from the team on both events soon.
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