By David Aldridge, for NBA.com
Posted Jan 25 2012 7:37AM
The Summer of 2011 was all about the lockout. The Summer of '12 may be all about the offer sheet.
With one day left before the deadline to give extensions to fourth-year players taken in the 2008 Draft, the likelihood is that fewer than five players from that Draft will receive new deals. Two -- Chicago's Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook -- have already gotten new contracts, but there is no guarantee that any of their fellow '08 draftees will join them, including Minnesota's Kevin Love, Denver's Danilo Gallinari, New Orleans' Eric Gordon or breakthrough players like Orlando's Ryan Anderson and Indiana's Roy Hibbert. If those players don't get contract extensions by Wednesday night, they would become restricted free agents next summer, able to sign offer sheets with other teams, though their current teams would have the right to match them.
League sources confirmed various reports out of Minnesota that the Timberwolves and Love's agent, Jeff Schwartz, are at an impasse on a fifth season for Love, who entered play Tuesday fifth in the league in scoring (24.9 per game) and second in rebounding (13.9), and who made his first All-Star Game appearance last season. The Wolves are offering Love a four-year deal worth $63 million; Love wants a five-year deal worth $80 million, the maximum Minnesota could give him under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the same deal that the Thunder gave Westbrook last week.
Sources maintain that the Wolves are offering Love just four years because they want to keep their "designated player" space for guard Ricky Rubio, who is considered a first-year player by the NBA even though he was drafted in 2009 (Rubio played overseas the last two years). Each team is allowed one designated player contract during the life of the new CBA, which can run for five seasons. No other players on the team can sign extensions for that long. Rubio would be eligible for an extension in 2014.
The Wolves feel that while Love had a breakthrough season last year, he still was on a 22-win team, while Westbrook and Kevin Durant have led a resurgence in Oklahoma City the last two years. Only a couple of players from teams with losing records the year before have gotten extensions in recent years; the Raptors gave Andrea Bargnani an extension in 2009 coming off of a 33-49 season the year before. Of course, Bargnani was the first pick overall in the '06 Draft. But comparing Love's and Westbrook's performance isn't quite an apples to apples comparison, either; Love hasn't had a teammate as good as Durant to play with until this season, when Rubio came over and the Wolves took Derrick Williams second overall in the Draft. Minnesota is also playing hardball; no other team can offer Love more than a four-year deal, and he would get less if he took that deal elsewhere--the Wolves can give him 7.5 percent annual raises, whereas other teams could only offer 4.5 percent annual raises.
Love has been encouraged by the Wolves' improved roster and with new coach Rick Adelman, whom he's known since he was in high school in Oregon playing on the same team as Adelman's son. He said earlier this month that he'd never played with a pass-first point guard as talented as Rubio, and that "...we're going to win a lot of ballgames with him on the team."
The Nuggets and Gallinari's agent, Arn Tellem, were still talking Tuesday, as they have been for several days trying to hammer out a deal, though neither side would predict whether something could be worked out before Wednesday. Gallinari has shaken off an early-season slump to raise his scoring average to 17.4 a game, the highest of his career, shooting a career-best 46 percent from the floor. But Denver has already given its starting center, Nene, a five-year, $70 million deal, and also re-signed veteran guard Arron Afflalo to a five-year deal worth more than $40 million.
Gordon, currently out with a knee injury, told Yahoo! Sports Monday that NBA Commissioner David Stern would have to approve any new contract with the Hornets. The league currently owns the Hornets after buying them from former owner George Shinn in 2010, and is in charge of the team until a permanent buyer can be found. However, a source with knowledge of the discussions said Tuesday that there were no league-placed restraints on the team's ability, either in years or dollars, to signing Gordon to a new deal, and that while the NBA will ultimately have to approve a new deal, the Hornets can negotiate an extension with Gordon.
Stern said last month that he anticipated a new buyer would be approved by the spring. Stern vetoed a proposed three-team trade in December between the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets that would have sent guard Chris Paul to Los Angeles, forward Pau Gasol to Houston and a package of players including Lamar Odom and Luis Scola to New Orleans.
Anderson's agent, Jeff Austin, said Tuesday that he didn't expect to get an extension from Orlando, though Anderson would like to stay there. The fourth-year forward is having a career year, averaging 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the foul line.
"We are going to wait on a new deal but all is great with (the) Magic," Austin said in a text.
Hibbert, who was taken 17th in '08, is not likely to sign an extension with Indiana, but that is more his desire. His agent, David Falk, said earlier this month that he anticipated Hibbert wouldn't do a deal because he expects Hibbert to get significant attention as a restricted free agent this summer. Hibbert is 10th in the league in rebounding (9.9 entering play Tuesday). Hibbert's teammate, guard George Hill, has been talking with the Pacers about an extension, but agent Michael Whitaker said Tuesday that it appeared less likely Hill would get a deal before the deadline.
"George is fine either way," Whitaker said. "If it's a deal that makes sense, that would be great, but if not, we will look at the market."
The agent for Portland forward Nicolas Batum, Bouna Ndiaye, was meeting again Tuesday with Blazers officials, but the likelihood of a breakthrough seemed to be waning. The Blazers also want to re-sign forward Gerald Wallace next summer, and it may be difficult for Portland to keep both small forwards.
Sources have consistently maintained that there would be no extensions coming for Minnesota forward Michael Beasley, taken second overall in '08, Memphis guard O.J. Mayo, taken third overall, Nets center Brook Lopez (10th), Kings forward Jason Thompson (12th), Hornets forward/center Marreese Speights (16th), Kings forward J.J. Hickson (19th), Rockets guard Courtney Lee (22nd) and Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur (27th), who is out for the season with an achilles' injury. The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this week that the Bobcats would not extend guard D.J. Augustin (ninth) or forward D.J. White (29th).
The number of extensions for Draft picks has dropped signficantly in recent years from the 16 new contracts received from the 2002 Draft class, to seven for the 2005 class, six for the '06 class and five for the '07 class.
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