And on the second full day of the NBA’s free-agency negotiating period, the Timberwolves spent $43 million, reaching agreement Tuesday on new contracts with their own Chase Budinger and Oklahoma City shooting guard Kevin Martin.
In doing so, they reunited two former Houston teammates with each other and Martin with Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who now once again will coach one of the game’s most efficient scorers but this time in their third city together.
They also in two fell swoops addressed their needs to boost the league’s worst three-point shooting team and helped balance their roster, even if, with Andrei Kirilenko opting out last weekend, they probably did so for now at the expense of their defense.
According to league sources familiar with negotiations, the Wolves reached terms with Budinger on a three-year, $15 million contract early Tuesday afternoon, then agreed with Martin on a four-year, almost $28 million contract. They reached the deal with Martin after targeted shooting guard J.J. Redick accepted a sign-and-trade deal that sent him from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-way trade that also included Phoenix.
The Wolves still must reach terms with restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic, but that probably won’t come until after Dwight Howard chooses his new home.
Nine years after he first played for Adelman, Martin, 30, is back with the coach who welcomed him to the NBA in Sacramento as an unsung rookie out of Western Carolina.
“He raised me well in this league from Day 1,” Martin said from his home in Zanesville, Ohio. “He developed me into a pretty good player. I respect what he’s done with my career.”
The Wolves turned their attention to Martin over O.J. Mayo in their search for that legitimately sized shooting guard they couldn’t grab in last week’s NBA draft after Redick agreed to go to the Clippers. Martin, who stands 6-7, chose the Wolves after overtures from Milwaukee and Memphis.
Wolves new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders visited Mayo in Los Angeles on Sunday night. But Martin said Saunders was the first to call when the clock struck midnight in the Eastern time zone.
Martin said the Wolves clearly were his No. 1 destination if he wasn’t going to return to Oklahoma City. The Thunder couldn’t afford to re-sign him, so Martin said he chose a team where he could play behind a pass-first point guard (Ricky Rubio) for the first time in his career and where he could return to a starting role after coming off the bench for the Thunder.
“Ecstatic,” Martin said. “I’m still in the middle of my prime. I feel like I’m 26. If I was going to leave Oklahoma City, I wanted to get back to being myself as a starting ‘2’ [shooting guard].”
Martin planned to celebrate Tuesday’s decision by spending a quiet night at home with his family.
Budinger planned to break out with his mom and dad a fine bottle of champagne he saved these last few months just for this occasion, the first big payday of his career.
“It’s not about the money,” said Budinger, a former second-round pick who made $942,000 last season in the final year of his original rookie contract. “It’s about the right situation and the people you’re around. Money is just a bonus. Everybody knows how much I loved playing for Rick Adelman, how well I fit into his system, how much I like playing with these guys. The NBA is a business so I had to look at the money aspect. But in my heart, it was always Minnesota.”
Budinger said he turned down more money to return to the Wolves. His new contract gives him an option to become a free agent after the second season.
The Wolves still have options to make other moves: a $2.6 million “room” exception under the salary cap. They also could trade J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour for a draft pick to clear one of their $4 million-plus contracts from the books and modify a roster that now has what Saunders considers five point guards on it.
Or they could trade one of them and/or Derrick Williams for a player.
The Wolves’ biggest need now appears to be a defensive-minded small forward, preferably one who can start. They could fill it by signing a free agent such as the Clippers’ Matt Barnes, Denver’s Corey Brewer or New Orleans’ Al-Farouq Aminu or by trading for a player such as Philadelphia’s Evan Turner or Washington’s Trevor Ariza.
Until then, Budinger looks like the starter at a small-forward position that also includes Williams and rookie Shabazz Muhammad. He said he was never promised the job during multiple conversations with Adelman during the negotiation process.
“No coach ever says that,” Budinger said of the promise of a starting job. “They always say, ‘You have the opportunity.’ I’ve always felt that I can start in this league, and I’m going to have that opportunity. You’ve definitely got to earn your spot, but that’s all I want.”