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Updated: July 27th, 2012 12:21pm
Wolves clear cap space by dealing Wes Johnson, sign Andrei Kirilenko

Wolves clear cap space by dealing Wes Johnson, sign Andrei Kirilenko

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Timberwolves cleared the necessary salary-cap space to sign Andrei Kirilenko on Friday.

The Wolves acquired three second-round draft picks and sent forward Wes Johnson and a future first-round draft pick to Phoenix in a three-team trade that also involved the New Orleans Hornets.

The Wolves then announced that they had signed 6-9 free-agent forward Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year, $20 million. Kirilenko, 31, who played parts of 10 seasons for the Utah Jazz before spending the 2011-12 season in his native Russia with CSKA Moscow, had verbally agreed to the deal with the Wolves but the team had to clear cap room.

"We are pleased that Andrei has decided to resume his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves," David Kahn, the Wolves' president of basketball operations, said in a statement. "Over his time in the NBA he has proven to be one of the best defensive players in the world. His ability to play multiple positions and big-game experience will be wonderful assets to our team. He is coming off an MVP season in Europe, on what many believe was the best team in Europe."

The Wolves also issued a statement from Kirilenko that read: "I'm excited to be returning to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Adelman, and I feel my game fits in well with his style of play. I also like the talent that Minnesota has on the team with star players like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio."

In 681 career games, Kirilenko has averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.0 blocks in 30.8 minutes per game. In 45 career playoff games, he owns averages of 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.

Kirilenko averaged 11.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks in 31.2 minutes per game for Utah during the 2010-11 season. The Jazz selected him with the 24th overall pick in the 1999 draft.

"I'm excited to be returning to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves," Kirilenko said in a statement. "The Wolves have one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Adelman. I feel my game fits in well with his play. I also like the talent that Minnesota has on the team with star players like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio."

Kirilenko likely will be the Wolves' starting small forward this season. The team signed him after failing to get restricted free agent Nicolas Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers.

In the three-team trade completed Friday, the Wolves received two second-round draft picks from New Orleans: a 2013 pick of the Brooklyn Nets and a 2016 pick originally belonging to the Wolves. Both picks were acquired by the Hornets in a July 13, 2012 trade.

The Wolves also received a second-round draft pick from Phoenix, a 2014 pick of the Los Angeles Lakers that the Suns acquired on July 11, 2012. Also in the trade, Phoenix sent center Robin Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick to New Orleans and the Hornets sent guard Jerome Dyson and center Brad Miller to the Suns.

Johnson spent two seasons with the Wolves, averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 144 games (127 starts). The Wolves drafted Johnson fourth overall in the first round of the 2010 draft but he never lived up to expectations.

"We thank Wes for his two seasons in Minnesota and wish him the best in Phoenix," Kahn said.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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