The Timberwolves made room for the defensive-minded wing player they lack by agreeing to contract terms with unrestricted free-agent Corey Brewer, while also agreeing on a three-team deal that will send veteran guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee, two league sources said Wednesday.
The Wolves cleared enough salary-cap space for Brewer’s three-year, $15 million contract by reaching agreement on a sign-and-trade with Oklahoma City for free-agent signee Kevin Martin and by sending Ridnour and his $4.3 million salary back to the Bucks without accepting any salaries in return.
Both trades are contingent on Brewer and Ridnour passing physical exams as soon as Thursday.
Also on Wednesday, Yahoo! Sports reported the Wolves and restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic were getting closer to agreement on a four-year, $50 million deal. But one of the league sources with knowledge of the negotiations said the Wolves still were awaiting word Wednesday evening from Pekovic’s camp after making a formal contract offer on Friday.
An agreement between the sides, though, seems only a matter of time. Pekovic repeatedly said last season he wanted to return to Minnesota, and the Wolves repeatedly said they wanted him back. And 11 days into the NBA’s free-agent period, no other team appears to have both the money and inclination to sign him to a large contract offer that the Wolves own the right to match.
By signing Brewer after he spent the past two seasons in Denver, the Wolves are bringing back a player whom they drafted seventh overall out of two-time NCAA champion Florida in 2007 and traded away four seasons later.
Known for his defensive range, high energy and sometimes wild shot selection, Brewer earned himself the biggest payday of his career Wednesday by filling an important role off the bench last season for Denver coach George Karl’s 57-victory Nuggets team.
His return to Minneapolis ensures that 12-year NBA veteran Andrei Kirilenko will not be back as the Wolves’ starting small forward this fall.
Kirilenko opted out of a $10.2 million option for this season two days after last month’s draft and became an unrestricted free agent in search of a three- or four-year contract, which, at age 32, would be the last big one of his long career.
The Wolves declined overtures from San Antonio for a sign-and-trade deal that would have cleared enough money on the Spurs payroll to sign Kirilenko to a multiyear deal worth $8 million or more a year.
The Wolves approached Kirilenko and his agent on Tuesday about returning to the team at a reduced salary from last season’s. When they refused to consider such an offer, one of the two league sources said, the Wolves turned their attention toward acquiring Brewer.
The team had planned on a Wednesday morning news conference to introduce Martin, the 6-7 shooting guard they will reunite with coach Rick Adelman for the third time in the two men’s careers after they reached agreement with him last week on a four-year contract worth nearly $28 million.
Those plans were canceled while the Wolves massaged their salary-cap situation enough by swinging arrangements with the Thunder and Bucks to clear enough money for Brewer, who turned 27 in March.
Oklahoma City will receive a $7 million trade exception it has a year to use for their part in facilitating the sign-and-trade for Martin.
At age 32, Ridnour started all 82 games for the Wolves last season, most of them as an undersized, 6-1 shooting guard who was asked to defend opponents sometimes six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.
The Bucks cleared salary-cap space to make room for Ridnour — who played two season in Milwaukee from 2008 to 2010 — by trading forward Luc M’Bah a Moute to Sacramento on Tuesday for two second-round draft picks.
When he was hired in May, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders cited perimeter shooting, a legitimately sized shooting guard and balancing a roster with five point guards as the team’s biggest needs.
Saunders addressed those needs by trading Ridnour, reaching contract terms with Martin from Oklahoma City and re-signing free-agent forward Chase Budinger. Brewer’s contract is very similar in years and money to the three-year, $15 million-plus deal that Budinger agreed to, and both players are expected to have player options on the third and final years of the contracts they sign when both trades become finalized by the NBA.
Saunders also selected scoring swingman Shabazz Muhammad out of UCLA in last month’s draft.
Muhammad and fellow draft picks Gorgui Dieng, a 6-11 shot-blocking center from NCAA champion Louisville, and Lorenzo Brown, a 6-5 point guard from North Carolina State, practiced Wednesday for the first time with the Wolves’ Las Vegas summer league team, which will begin play Saturday.