The NBA’s annual free-agency period started late Saturday night into Sunday, when players grabbed cash where they could even before superstar LeBron James decided to move on from Cleveland and become a Los Angeles Laker.
In its first hour, the Timberwolves reached out to four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler about a contract extension and agreed to sign former league MVP Derrick Rose to a minimum contract worth nearly $2.4 million.
The New York Times reported the Wolves immediately informed Butler and his agent that they will offer him a maximum four-year contract extension worth about $110 million when they are eligible to extend his contract on July 9.
It’s a good-faith gesture that’s unlikely to convince Butler to commit now, because he is eligible to earn nearly $80 million more from the Wolves if he opts out of his current contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Wolves are intent on signing All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns to a contract extension as well, a five-year deal expected to be worth as much as $187 million.
On Thursday, Wolves coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau called communication with Butler important and said he talks daily to a player whom he coached five seasons in Chicago.
“Every day we work at it,” Thibodeau said. “We know how important he is and we feel he’s one of the best players in the league. How you manage that on a daily basis is important.”
Asked if there is a path to extending Butler’s contract yet this summer, Thibodeau said, “There are options that we have, yeah.”
Butler said more than once last season that he’ll determine his future based on where he feels he has the best chance to win big, not by money.
The Wolves last fall signed young star Andrew Wiggins to a five-year contract extension worth at least $146.5 million. Those negotiations began in July, but Wiggins didn’t sign until October.
Asked Thursday if he has an idea how the Towns’ negotiations will unfold, Thibodeau said, “I don’t, I don’t. We’re just optimistic it will be done as soon as possible.”
The Wolves’ top target when free agency began at 11 p.m. Saturday, Rose reached agreement with them on that minimum one-year contract worth $2.393 million for the coming season.
By signing him to a minimum contract, the Wolves still have their non-taxpayer’s $8.6 million midlevel exception — or at least a chunk of it depending on how they handle cap and luxury-tax ramifications — and a $3.4 million biannual exception.
The agreement keeps Rose with Tom Thibodeau, who coached him for five seasons, including his MVP year in 2011, in Chicago. Thibodeau signed him as a free agent in March.
“We like the way he fit in,” Thibodeau said Thursday. “We felt he played really well in the playoffs and that’s sort of been his history. We’re going to go after as many good players as we can.”
Teams could reach contract agreements with free agents starting late Saturday, but the contract cannot be finalized and signed until the NBA’s moratorium period ends Friday.