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AP Sources: Timberwolves Closing In On Deal With Barea

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After helping the Dallas Mavericks capture the franchise’s first NBA title, free agent point guard JJ Barea is closing in on a deal to help Ricky Rubio learn the ropes in Minnesota.

Two people with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday that Barea could have a deal finished as early as Tuesday. The people requested anonymity because the deal has not been announced. NBA.com first reported the agreement.

Barea spent the past five years in Dallas. He blossomed during the Mavericks’ run to the NBA title last season, using his speed and quickness to create mismatches and forming a formidable pick-and-roll combination with forward Dirk Nowitzki. He averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists last season as the change-of-pace backup to Jason Kidd and started three games in the playoffs as well.

Though the deal was still being completed, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was resigned to seeing a key player of their championship run leave. Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in the playoffs and gave the Los Angeles Lakers fits en route to a sweep of the defending champions in the Western Conference semifinals.

He 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.

“I’m happy that he’s able to experience that kind of a payday because what he did here for the last three years has earned him that,” Carlisle said, referring to a four-year, $19 million reported offer. “He’ll be a terrific player for the Timberwolves, and not only is he a really good basketball player, but he’s got a great keen team vibe and he’s just a great chemistry player too. So the kind of intangibles that he has will be something that’ll really help their development of their younger guys.”

The Timberwolves have plenty of those, namely Rubio, the 21-year-old who decided to leave Spain this summer and join the Timberwolves. Rubio was the fifth overall draft pick in 2009, but he remained in Spain over the past two years to get more seasoning and lower the buyout of his professional contract.

It’s likely he’ll benefit from the addition of Barea, another Spanish-speaking player who enjoys playing the game with some flash and flair. Barea would also join veteran Luke Ridnour as one of three point guards on the roster. With the compressed 66-game schedule, it is possible the Wolves could hold on to all three players to handle the significant work load, or Ridnour could be a candidate to be moved.

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.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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