The Scoops: It's likely just a matter of time before Pekovic signs
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas won't become reality for Minnesota Timberwolves president of operations Flip Saunders this week.
While in Sin City for summer league games, Saunders will continue negotiations with Excel Sports Management agents Jeff Schwartz and Sean Kennedy and European agent Misko Raznatovic. They represent restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic.
According to a source, the Wolves have extended the trio a four-year, $50 million offer. They won't go much higher, if at all. They have placed a value on Pekovic, and that's in the vicinity of $12 million/year. Pekovic's camp is holding out waiting to see if some team can top that. As of Monday, there has been no movement according to a league source -- just status quo with the Wolves' offer sitting on the table.
Nobody outside of Milwaukee has the requisite cap space. But teams can always dump a salary or two. It'd be a waste. Team sources maintain that any offer will be matched even if the Wolves have to overpay.
Nobody at Target Center believes Pekovic would take the qualifying offer of $6,046,500 and choose unrestricted free agency next summer. That's far too big a risk, especially when there's a history of injuries.
Bottom-line: expect resolution in the coming days or weeks on a long-term deal that will keep Pekovic in Minnesota.
The latest buzz on the Wolves' front office: Saunders will hire a vice president of basketball operations and a general manager. Rob Babcock, currently the director of operations, is a strong candidate for one of the positions. Washington vice president of personnel Milt Newton remains in play too. Saunders may also talk to a few other external candidates. Saunders will retain final say in all personnel matters, but will lean heavily on his new hire(s). There's also the elephant in the room of Saunders one day returning to the bench. If so, one of the new hires would have that much more responsibility.
A source close to Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko when asked if the Wolves ever made an offer to retain his services: "Not really." A Wolves source said that the parameters of a 3-year, $21 million offer were discussed. I'm not sure we'll ever the get full story since neither side has any incentive to share. If Kirilenko's agent turned that offer down, he looks bad after accepting a 1-year, $3.1 million deal in Brooklyn. If the Wolves really made the offer, and couldn't complete the deal, that doesn't bode well. Other teams that called on Kirilenko, per a source: the Spurs, Mavericks, Knicks, Warriors, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, and Lakers.
Make no mistake: Wolves coach Rick Adelman is a big fan of guard Luke Ridnour, but he was all-in on the trade that gave him away to Milwaukee. J.J. Barea, because of one more year on his contract, was a tougher giveaway. Thus, Barea is here, and Ridnour is gone.
Before adding Corey Brewer for the mid-level exception, the Wolves had an opportunity to acquire Memphis forward Tayshaun Prince for minimal in return. The 33-year-old has two years and approximately $14 million left on his contract. He played for Saunders in Detroit.
Not that the Wolves will listen, but so far Boston has not called them to see if they have interest in trading for small forward Gerald Wallace. Adelman helped draft Wallace and coached him for three years in Sacramento. Wallace has 3-years, $30 million left on his contract. That's troublesome for any organization.
A Wolves source when asked if free agent Metta World Peace, another former Adelman player, is an option: "No." However, one caveat was offered: Adelman could pine for him. But after the Brewer signing, that seems highly unlikely. There's also the belief that World Peace wouldn't come to Minnesota even if they wanted him.
The Wolves had heavy interest in Charlotte restricted free agent wing Gerald Henderson before acquiring shooting guard Kevin Martin.
The Wolves like O.J. Mayo, who signed a 3-year, $24 million deal with Milwaukee. However, they came to the conclusion that he and point guard Ricky Rubio wouldn't be the best match. A source said that Mayo wants the ball in his hands more so than Martin or another free agent shooter the Wolves pursued, J.J. Redick. On Redick: word is he was on board with being a Timberwolf. They just couldn't swing a sign-and-trade deal as beneficial as the Clippers did. A Wolves source didn't cave, but conjecture based on the timeline of events suggests that Redick was slightly favored over Martin.
The Wolves received calls on Friday asking them if they have interest in free agent guards Nate Robinson and Delonte West. The answer appears to be no. To fill the 15th spot on the roster, the Wolves will either sign a young free agent or give the summer league star not under contract -- Lorenzo Brown, Robbie Hummel, Brandon Paul, etc. -- the spot.
The Wolves never had an interest in retaining center Greg Stiemsma, who signed a 1-year, $2.7 million deal with New Orleans. Certainly not at that price at least.
Dallas had interest in reacquiring Barea, but not anymore, per a league source. This is still the case after they lost rookie guard Shane Larkin to a broken ankle in a summer league practice and backed out of an agreement with free agent guard Devin Harris. He has a foot injury.
The Wolves talked with guard Chauncey Billups even after he gave a verbal agreement to rejoin Detroit. But it was more of a best of luck conversation. The Wolves had interest in signing Billups, 36, but didn't want to go as high as the Pistons did: 2-years, $5 million.
Adelman's good friend, Elston Turner, never got a call after Bill Bayno left for the No. 1 assistant spot in Toronto. David Adelman, Rick's son, will take Bayno's spot.
Gophers guard Andre Hollins was recently involved in a bike accident. A team source said, "He simply slipped on loose gravel and went down hard." He got some scrapes, but is ok.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino flew commercial on the first leg of the weekend's recruiting trip. I thought this would be the weekend that he took advantage of his $50,000 private jet allowance. Maybe he did, but not from the get-go. In the last week, Pitino watched prospects in AAU events in Philadelphia, South Carolina, and Indianapolis.
Class of 2014 Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones recently on the Gophers' effort in landing him: "They talk to me quite often. It's tough for them. I've been talking to other colleges (and coaches) for years. I'm wide open to building a relationship with them. It's been just fine."
Former Gophers player Trevor Mbakwe recently got a summer league pep talk from his former coach, Tubby Smith. Mbakwe played in Orlando for Philadelphia and is playing for Toronto in Vegas.
Twins vice president of personnel Mike Radcliff recently watched top prospect Miguel Sano for five games with AA New Britain. "Same positive effort," Radcliff said. "He has great desire. He's a smart kid. He's ready to handle stuff. He's the youngest guy in the league and fits in." Radcliff marvels in the defensive improvement Sano has made in the last year. "He can play third base. That's not an issue anymore."
Radcliff on the inevitable problem of what to do with current third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who's tied for the team lead in home runs: "We'll deal with that. He has versatility. He's revving it up." Sano seems a cinch to be with the Twins in no more than a year, so the Plouffe dilemma is fast approaching.
The Twins have a contingency of 25 employees at Citi Field this week for the All-Star game. It's a part of the preparation for next year's festivities.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway at his recent charity golf event on the addition of linebacker Desmond Bishop: "You want to add good pieces like that. We're happy to have him. Adding Desmond will be huge. He has high-level ability, has been in some big games, and been successful in those games." Greenway isn't concerned about what the move will do linebacker Erin Henderson's psyche, potentially pushing him from the middle to the outside. "The things he did in OTAs and mini-camp proves he has that high-level ability to be a great middle linebacker in this league."
Among the ex-Gophers players working out daily at Mariucci Arena: Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad, Predators forward Zach Budish, who will start the year in the AHL, Evan Kaufmann, who plays in Germany, and Taylor Matson, who's expected to land in the AHL.
Vanek remains at the top of the Wild's wish list for free agency next summer, or sometime during the season before the trade deadline.