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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Timberwolves’ once-promising season came to a disappointing end, coach Rick Adelman said the team had to be aggressive with free agency and trades to bring in skilled veterans who could change the culture in Minnesota.
It would be difficult to find another word to describe their activity when the free-agent market opened on Sunday.
The Timberwolves hosted Boston Celtics free-agent Greg Stiemsma and were working hard to bring in Portland restricted free-agent Nicolas Batum for a visit, two days after visiting Brandon Roy in Seattle. The Celtics and Blazers have the right to match any offer that Stiemsma and Batum, respectively, receive. Roy is free to sign with any team, and was expected to meet with Dallas and Chicago, among others as the week progressed.
The Wolves have also expressed interest in unrestricted free agent shooting guard Jamal Crawford and, according to a report from Yahoo Sports, scheduled a visit with forward Jordan Hill for Monday.
The Wolves have some background with Stiemsma, having brought him on in the summer a few years ago to workout with Al Jefferson as he recuperated from a torn ACL. The Wolves did not retain Stiemsma, who bounced around before emerging as a quality big man off the bench for the Celtics last season.
Landing Batum may be even more difficult. The Blazers have made it known that they intend to match any offer for the French swingman, who would fit nicely into Adelman’s corner offense and also beef up the perimeter defense for a team that often played undersized Luke Ridnour at shooting guard last season.
After not extending qualifying offers to Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, the Wolves freed up more than $12 million to use in free agency. They could create more room by trading Martell Webster and Brad Miller and using the amnesty clause on Darko Milicic, giving Adelman and team president David Kahn plenty of ammunition to improve a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004.
Minnesota also could be active in the trade market, particularly for Lakers big man Pau Gasol. Wolves President David Kahn said Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio were “cornerstone players” that he hoped would one day retire with Minnesota, leaving open the possibility that Derrick Williams or much-improved center Nikola Pekovic could be shipped out if the right deal came along.
The Timberwolves did dangle Williams on draft night in an effort to land Gasol, but that deal fell through.
They have since made a hard push for Roy, the former Blazers guard who announced his retirement before last season due to chronic knee problems. If Roy is healthy, landing some combination of him, Batum and Crawford would go a long way toward addressing the team’s biggest need — playmaking scorers on the perimeter.
While some fans locally have been concerned about the long-term consequences of sending the 21-year-old Williams out in a deal for Gasol, who turns 32 this week, it has become abundantly clear that the Timberwolves have ramped up their timeline for becoming a factor in the Western Conference.
At 66 years old, Adelman likely won’t stay around for a decade waiting for the young roster to get rolling and owner Glen Taylor has begun the process of looking for a minority partner who will eventually take over the team. Those two factors seem to have increased the urgency to win now, but an aggressive offer for Batum could be the best of both worlds.
Batum is just 23 years old, so signing him to a big deal could help the Timberwolves immediately and going into the future.
No matter what numbers, if any, are exchanged, nothing will be decided for any free agents for another 10 days. The market opened on Sunday, but a moratorium on signings lasts until July 11. If a restricted free agent signs an offer sheet, the team that holds its rights will have three days to decide whether to match the deal or let him go.
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