David Lee visits Timberwolves
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Unlike Rudy Gay, free-agent forward David Lee kept his word and visited the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. His agent says it was worth the trip.
Mark Bartelstein said his client “had a great visit” and was “really impressed” by the pitch put on by team president David Kahn, coach Kurt Rambis and the rest of the Timberwolves.
“You have to give David Kahn and Kurt a tremendous amount of credit,” Bartelstein said. “They had an impressive proposal and really showed a lot of enthusiasm.”
Lee spent about nine hours in the Twin Cities, catching some of the Rays-Twins game with Kahn and Rambis before grabbing an evening flight home and Bartelstein said the two would talk things over. He declined to say if the Timberwolves made an offer.
Lee averaged 20.3 points and 11.7 rebounds for the New York Knicks last seasons and has been one of the most productive players in the league over the last three seasons.
“We had a very good meeting with David Lee today,” Kahn said in a statement issued by the team. “We enjoyed getting to know David and providing him an opportunity to hear our vision for our team, and his potential role with us. This was the first step in the process and we will be in contact with his representatives later this week.”
If the Timberwolves are to do a deal with Lee, it likely will require a sign and trade to make it happen. Agreeing to deals with Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic has eaten a big chunk of their cap space, which means the Wolves will almost assuredly have to deal Al Jefferson and his $13 million salary to create enough room for Lee.
The Wolves, whose 15 wins were the second-fewest in the league last season, had to be somewhat encouraged just when Lee showed up. In the opening minutes of free agency early Thursday morning, Kahn also secured a visit from Gay. But the small forward canceled the meeting at the last minute and agreed to a five-year contract worth more than $80 million to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies.
It appears that Gay was simply using the Timberwolves, and a few other teams, as leverage to get the best possible deal out of Memphis and underscored the uphill battle the Timberwolves face in this extremely competitive free-agent summer.
Minnesota is a smaller media market than Chicago, Miami or New York and the Wolves do not have near as much cap space as any of those teams. Lee has already met with the Heat and Bulls and Bartelstein said he still might visit with the Nets as well.
“Realistically it is a little bit of a different sales pitch,” Bartelstein said. “Other teams like the Bulls, Miami, New Jersey, they’ve got the ability to add a star player and David. They’re in a little different position in terms of being able to compete right away.”
Kahn said last week that he thought it was important to get free agents to make visits to Minnesota in order to get a better idea of what the Twin Cities, and the Timberwolves, have to offer.
“I very much want people to come here and see the upgraded facilities, to meet Glen, to have a feel for the entire organization,” Kahn said. “I think there are a lot of quality people that work here and are connected to this organization. The more they can meet those people during this process, I think, the better.”
Kahn didn’t think that the Timberwolves would have to get past any preconceived notions about snowy Minnesota, but he was aware of the incredible competition on the market this summer, competition that has already yielded enormous deals for the likes of Gay, Drew Gooden and Amir Johnson.
“The more teams that are competing for the services of one player, that tends to drive the price northward,” Kahn said.
The Timberwolves love Lee’s productivity and think he would be an ideal fit for their up-tempo offense. The hard part will be convincing Lee, or any other big-time free agent, to join the rebuilding effort.
“I think David (Kahn) is doing it the right way,” Bartelstein said. “They probably have to make a heck of a pitch. But that’s why they’re there. David (Lee) is a really bright guy. He’s got an open mind and we’ll see what happens.”