The Scoop: Financial Specifics Holding up Wolves-Pekovic Deal
Updated: 10/08/2013 9:14 AM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
NBA power agent Jeff Schwartz will have conversations with Minnesota Timberwolves president of operations Flip Saunders sometime in early 2015. Those talks will center around whether All-Star Kevin Love will opt-out of his 2015-16 contract and choose unrestricted free agency, or sign a more lucrative extension.
In other words, Schwartz is someone the Wolves want to maintain a solid relationship with.
But that could be compromised with Schwartz also representing Wolves restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic.
Saunders was in New York City earlier in the week to meet with Schwartz. Word is it was cordial gathering. But one central issue remains, according to sources: money. The Wolves are offering Pekovic a four-year, $48 million extension. Schwartz wants more. In fact, at least initially, a lot more. One league source said his opening asking price was in the vicinity of $15 million/year.
The possibility of a five-year agreement exists (point guard Ricky Rubio would still be eligible for a five-year extension because Pekovic is not on the rookie scale). But the main focus has been on four-years. The Wolves are willing to add some incentive sweeteners -- think games played with Pekovic's injury history. But the idea that they'll budge from the guaranteed portion -- $12 million/year -- is nearly ludicrous.
Pekovic's only leverage is to sign the $6 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But nobody involved believes that will happen. Leaving $42 million-plus on the table, especially with a player who breaks down way more so than others, would be absurd.
In the end -- probably sometime before Pekovic begins play with Montenegro in the EuroBasket championships in early September -- a long-term deal is expected.
The conditioning portion of Montenegro's training camp began weeks ago. They ramp up their preparation next week. But until Pekovic signs with the Wolves, he won't be there.
• A popular trade suggestion among message board posters and tweeters is sending Pekovic and forward Derrick Williams to Portland for All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Two league sources say that deal is as likely as Hall of Famer Cris Carter not crying during his induction speech. It's a non-starter on Portland's end.
• Before the Clippers stepped up in sign-and-trade talks, shooting guard JJ Redick was five minutes away from accepting another team's free agent offer, according to the Arizona Republic. That team was not the Wolves. The Wolves met with Redick, who was willing to sign with them. But the talks never got that far down the road.
• Heard again this week: the Wolves will announce a front office promotion for Rob Babcock. He's expected to have vice president status.
• The Wolves had brief external discussions about signing free agent power forward Ivan Johnson earlier this summer. But they have since moved on.
• The Wolves never externally entertained the notion of signing free agent shooting guard Gary Neal. He is Milwaukee bound.
• In spite of a report from the Sporting News, undrafted guard Seth Curry does not have an opportunity to come to training camp with the Wolves.
• It looks like the 15th spot on the roster will be a training camp battle among 2013 2nd round pick Lorenzo Brown, 2012 2nd round pick Robbie Hummel, summer league standout Othyus Jeffers and a to be determined big man.
• Former Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko on Thursday via a conference call organized by his new team, Brooklyn: "I wanted to be in Minnesota for a long tine. But there was a change in Minnesota. I respect Flip Saunders' decision, but he decided not to sign me for a long time."
That statement is wrong, per multiple sources. There's a semantical debate from the Kirilenko camp. But two people directly involved say that Kirilenko had a three-year, $21 million offer to return to the Wolves.
• Great work by KSTP's Jay Kolls, breaking news last week on what the holdup is with the Target Center renovation project. According to Minneapolis city council member Gary Schiff, talks slowed down when the Wolves and AEG (company that runs Target Center) expressed a desire to have a long-term commitment from the city about future upgrades, which means a larger financial commitment as well. Right now, the renovation deal calls for the city to pay $50 million for the renovation. The other $50 million will be divided between the Timberwolves and AEG.
Schiff says the city does not want to enter into an agreement that handcuffs future policy makers at city hall.
Schiff says none of this is a deal breaker, but it needs to be resolved before a renovation agreement is reached. The renovations should've started months ago. Now, it looks like they won't be done before next season.
The Scoops has swapped phone messages with Wolves owner Glen Taylor. We'll report back in the near future.
• Twins vice president of personnel Mike Radcliff was noticeably troubled over the phone this week after he and general manager Terry Ryan didn't do more before Wednesday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline. "We're trying (to do more in August)," he said. "It didn't happen. It's frustrating."
• Count the Twins as interested in Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero. "We like him," Radcliff said. "We have guys watching him. We're still looking at him."
• As first reported via Twitter (@DarrenWolfson), Twins minor league star, Fort Myers' Byron Buxton, is out after having a toenail removed. Entering Sunday, he's missed six consecutive games. But Radcliff isn't concerned. "It's a short-term thing," he said. The injury initially happened three weeks ago in Cedar Rapids when he fouled a ball off of his foot.
• Radcliff said they're making progress on signing a couple international free agents. When pressed for names, he declined comment. The Twins still have over one million dollars to spend from their allotted pool.
• One reason to pay attention to the Twins in September is if AA studs Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario get called up. It's very much a long shot, however... "I won't say no chance," Radcliff said. "We'll see. It's still to be determined." Minor league operations director Brad Steil is watching AA New Britain right now, according to Radcliff. The plan is to have someone from the front office with New Britain the rest of August.
• AA pitcher Alex Meyer, out since June 1 with a shoulder injury, is close to coming back. "He's throwing. He's ramping up," Radcliff said. Radcliff expects him back on a game mound by the end of the month.
• To lighten the mood, I suggested to Radcliff that having a top-5 draft pick again next June can be a good thing. His comeback: outside of having the No. 1 pick -- North Carolina state pitcher Carlos Rodon -- this is a weaker draft compared to most. "It's not a great draft," he said. "It's not real deep."
• Radcliff's travel scouting itinerary the next month: watching the Twins in Kansas City next week, San Diego for the Perfect Game high school All-American Classic, Taiwan, Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.
• For what it's worth, the Twins have not reached out with interest in signing free agent starting pitcher Ted Lilly.