Sources: J.J. Barea to join Wolves
Free-agent guard J.J. Barea has reached an agreement in principle with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a four-year contract worth an estimated $19 million, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.
NBA.com reported that the Wolves and Barea were finalizing the deal Monday.
Barea joins Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler as prime free agents to leave the Dallas Mavericks in the wake of their championship, but Dallas has focused exclusively on acquiring players on one-year deals to preserve maximum salary-cap space for the summer of 2012.
The speedy guard from Puerto Rico drew interest from several teams, most notably the New York Knicks, after emerging as a playoff difference-maker. But none of the other suitors could match the sort of offer that the under-the-salary-cap Timberwolves could present.
"I'm happy that he's able to experience that kind of a payday because what he did here the last three years has earned him that," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "And he'll be a terrific player for the Timberwolves.
"Not only is he a really good basketball player, but he's got a great team vibe and he's a great chemistry player, too. The kind of intangibles he has will be something that will really help the development of their younger guys."
Barea will join a backcourt rotation in Minnesota most notably headlined by Spanish rookie Ricky Rubio, who will make his NBA debut this season after spending the last two playing for Barcelona in his native country.
The Wolves selected Rubio with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, then signed him to his first NBA contract on May 31, 2011. The Wolves also have Luke Ridnour at point guard but have long believed privately that Ridnour is easily traded when they're ready to move him.
Barea expressed disappointment last week over the dimming prospect of returning to the Mavs.
"I wasn't expecting it to be like this after everything we did, after my five years here, after what we did last year," Barea said on ESPN 103.3's Ben and Skin Show. "Now you've just got to go with it and things happen."
Barea said the Mavericks had refused to offer deals that went beyond one year.
Barea had said the Mavericks' plan to possibly sign one of the free-agent superstars expected to be available next summer had not been clearly articulated to him or his agent, Dan Fegan.
"We don't understand what's going on with the management here in Dallas," Barea said. "I don't know what their plans (are). Their plan is not to bring me back, not to bring Tyson back, so we'll see what happens."
Barea was a key player in Dallas' championship run, hHe had 22 points and eight assists in the clinching victory over the Lakers, and tallied 32 points and 10 assists in the final two victories over the Heat in the NBA finals.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman declined to address Barea on Tuesday night after practice, but All-Star forward Kevin Love was ready to welcome the Puerto Rican with open arms. The Wolves have one of the youngest rosters in the league and are sorely in need of veterans to help set a tempo in practice and help these young pups mature.
Minnesota has targeted adding veteran help at center and shooting guard, and it still may look to address those needs. But bringing in a playoff-proven performer at any position would be a welcome addition.
"He'll fit well," Love said. "He's a veteran guy who comes from a championship team. Obviously he doesn't have the size and the length that we particularly would hope for. But I think he could help out Ricky as well and I think that's what we're looking for now more than anything is veteran leadership."
The Timberwolves also agreed to terms with second-round draft pick Malcolm Lee on a three-year deal. The shooting guard from UCLA was held out of practice on Monday because he had not yet signed the agreement, but the contract has been submitted to the league and he will likely return to practice on Tuesday.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon and The Associated Press was used in this report.