MINNEAPOLIS — With dust finally settled after the blockbuster Kevin Love trade that changed the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the franchise has one big move still to address before the start of the season.
Point guard Ricky Rubio is eligible for an extension of his rookie contract and the two sides continue to have discussions to try to get a deal done. If a contract is not signed by Oct. 31, Rubio will be eligible to be a restricted free agent next summer.
Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton said on Thursday that he is optimistic the two sides can come to agreement, but the Wolves are remaining patient as the process plays out.
"We're going to look at the situation the same way we did with Kevin," Newton said. "We're going to do the best thing for the organization, and if we can get something done sooner, great. If not, we're not necessarily in a rush."
If Rubio becomes a restricted free agent, the Wolves could match any offer he receives on the open market. As it stands today, they don't appear willing to offer the five-year maximum contract that former team president David Kahn was saving for Rubio, but Newton said there would be an advantage to getting a deal done before the season starts as opposed until waiting until next summer.
"Going forward, you want to show good will and trust in a player," Newton said. "So it can kind of go both ways whether you wait or do something now, but it has to be right for both sides."
Restricted free agency can be a tricky venture for players, as evidenced by the standoff in Phoenix between guard Eric Bledsoe and the Suns. Bledsoe is believed to be searching for a max deal, but he never got an offer sheet from another team during the summer to force the Suns' hand, with most teams staying away under the belief that Phoenix would match any offer anyway.
But there is some risk for the Timberwolves if Rubio were to reach free agency. His agent, Dan Fegan, who helped the Dallas Mavericks craft an offer sheet to client Chandler Parsons that made it very difficult for the Houston Rockets to match. Now Parsons, who got max-level money on his three-year contract that includes a player option after the second season, is playing for the Mavs and the Rockets signed Trevor Ariza to replace him.
The Timberwolves want Rubio to sign a four-year contract extension, with the exact numbers on that deal still up for negotiation. Rubio is entering his fourth season with the team and has emerged as one of the league's best passers and a very good defender as well. He averaged 8.6 assists and 2.3 steals last season, both elite numbers.
But he has struggled with his shot since he came into the league and averaged 9.5 points on 38.1 percent shooting last season. Rubio has worked with a shooting coach during the summer to try to improve that area of his game, which is necessity for him to take the next step in a league full of quality point guards.
Training camp opens for the Timberwolves on Sept. 30 and there was no indication on Thursday that a deal was close. Newton said "there are some things we agree on, some things we don't agree on."
"I feel optimistic," Newton said. "Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here. We just have to deal with his agent."
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