Will Karl-Anthony Towns sign shorter contract extension with Timberwolves?

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Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves have until 6 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 15 to agree to a contract extension. The deal wouldn’t kick in until 2019-20, anyway. So, there’s plenty of time.

But why isn’t it done yet? Most max extensions are completed, or at least clearly agreed upon, by now. Is the reported discord between Towns and Minnesota that significant?

Brian Windhorst on ESPN:

There’s nothing happening right now.

The fact that this isn’t getting done yet is sort of eye-brow raising. To me, I believe he’s going to sign it. There’s never been a player who hasn’t signed it. The question again will be, to me: What type of deal is it? Is it a full five-year extension? Is it KAT saying this is where I want to be? Or does he take the shorter extension?

A five-year max contract extension for Towns projects to be worth $190 million (if he makes an All-NBA team or wins Defensive Player of the Year next season) or $158 million (if he doesn’t qualify for the super-max).

A three-year max extension would project to top out at $88 million. He wouldn’t be eligible for the super max unless he signs for four or five more years (no options).

The Timberwolves shouldn’t offer Towns a shorter extension unless it includes a much lower salary. They’d be better off waiting to re-sign him in restricted free agency next summer and hoping their relationship is in a better place.

If it is, they could re-sign him to a five-year deal with the exact same terms an extension would have now. If it’s not, they could make it very costly for him to leave.

Minnesota could extend a maximum qualifying offer – a standing offer for a fully guaranteed five-year max contract with max raises and no options. By doing so, the Timberwolves would force any offer sheet Towns signs elsewhere to be for at least three years, not including options (up from two years, not including options, otherwise).

The only way he could unilaterally leave Minnesota quicker than three years is accepting his regular, $10,191,266, one-year qualifying offer. That’d be a steep drop from his projected max salary of more than $27 million and come with no long-term security. But it would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Windhorst is right: Nobody has ever passed on a rookie-scale contract extension. It’s players’ first chance to earn huge money, not a time most feel ready to take a risk.

But circumstances have changed in recent years with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Towns would be eligible for the super max in his eighth and ninth seasons with only the team he ends next season on. An unintended consequence of the new rules: Young players have more incentive to push for trades sooner.

Towns refusing to sign a contract extension would be a bright flashing warning to the Timberwolves, one that might even cause them to trade him now. They’d still have significant control over his future if he heads toward restricted free agency, but how long do they want to do that dance with him?

It’s also possible Towns is delaying to exert less-explosive leverage. Maybe he’s just making noise to get a player option or a higher portion of the super max if he qualifies on a five-year deal.

The expectation should probably remain Towns signs an extension with Minnesota, but the longer this drags out, the more curious it becomes.

Report: Jimmy Butler wanted Timberwolves to add four years, $155 million to his contract this summer

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Jimmy Butler rejected the largest-possible extension the capped-out Timberwolves could offer him this summer – a four-year deal worth $100,514,631 ($25,128,658 average annual salary).

After all, his projected max in free agency this summer is about $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually) if he re-signs or about $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually) if he leaves.

But Minnesota’s extension offer wasn’t technically the largest possible this summer. Theoretically, the Timberwolves could have cleared cap space to renegotiate his salary upward then offered a richer extension based on his new salary.

And apparently that’s what Butler wanted – and didn’t get – before requesting a trade.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:

Butler was hoping for a renegotiation and extension of his contract this summer, one that would have raised his salary for 2018-19 to $30 million and added another four years and $145 million on to that.

The Timberwolves could have trimmed their roster to only their starters – Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Karl-Anthony Towns. That would have meant using sweeteners to unload Gorgui Dieng‘s negative value contract, dumping recent first-round picks Justin Patton, Tyus Jones and Josh Okogie and not using the mid-level exception on Anthony Tolliver. Only players who signed for the minimum could have still wound up on the roster.

Minnesota still wouldn’t have had enough cap space to renegotiate Butler’s salary up to $30 million.

Perhaps, Butler wanted the Timberwolves to take more drastic measures like trading Wiggins for little to no returning salary. But they clearly weren’t going to do that, and they’d long gone down the opposite road of adding salary. They weren’t coming close to clearing the $10 million of cap space necessary to raise Butler’s salary that much.

This is all raises questions about timing. Nearly every report on Butler’s wishes has gone out of its way to say contract concerns – not problems with Wiggins and Towns – were the primary driver of the trade request. But if that were the case, why now? Butler had to know for months he wasn’t getting his desired extension.

While his brother spars online with Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins takes up fight with Stephen Jackson

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Jimmy Butler lit a fuse by requesting a trade from the Timberwolves.

Then, Andrew Wiggins‘ brother, Butler, Stephen Jackson and Wiggins himself all fanned the flames of the resulting fire.

Butler reportedly had problems with Andrew Wiggins last season, specifically Wiggins’ work ethic and defensive approach. Want corroborating evidence the Minnesota teammates aren’t simpatico? Wiggins’ brother, Nick Wiggins, tweeted (and deleted) “Hallelujah” to news of Butler’s trade request:

Butler – probably not coincidentally while working out – responded via Instagram:

Butler:

Hallelujah, keep that same energy

Then the retired Jackson acted out an elaborate scene in which Andrew – played by Jackson – copped to having no heart:

The real Andrew Wiggins didn’t like that and posted on Instagram:

Jackson responded:

If he didn’t like Butler giving him grief, Wiggins darned sure isn’t ready for heat from Jackson.

Mark Cuban explains some, though not all, of his role in Mavericks’ hostile work environment (video)

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As a result of the investigation into his team’s hostile work environment, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will donate $10 million “organizations that are committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence.” The Mavericks will also report to the NBA on structural changes to their organization.

And Cuban showed accountability by granting an interview to Rachel Nichols of ESPN:

I appreciate Cuban sitting for this interview with Nichols, who grilled him. I appreciate him apologizing to the actual victims. I appreciate him taking responsibility for the wrongdoing that happened beneath him. I appreciate him explaining what he did wrong and what he learned. I appreciate him, along with Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, explaining the changes they’re making to rectify the situation.

But, though he explained his logic and subsequent lesson from handling Earl Sneed’s domestic violence, Cuban gave no real answer to how he let former CEO Terdema Ussery – found to be an serial sexual harasser – remain in power for 15 years. Taking Cuban at his word – that he was blind to the sexual harassment prevalent in the Mavericks business office – means shattering his image as a great businessman. The sharp and in-charge owner Cuban presented himself as would never grant Ussery such unchecked power for so long. “If I was in our business office five times in 15 years, that was a lot,” Cuban told Nichols. “I mean, it’s embarrassing to say.”

And that’s the benign explanation. Embarrassing is nothing compared to the alternative – that Cuban was as involved as he portrayed, which would mean he knew about Ussery’s misconduct and excused it. The choices are that Cuban’s first-rate businessman image was fraudulent or that he’s directly complicit in Ussery’s sexual harassment.

More than anything, hopefully Cuban has truly learned how not to repeat his prior errors.

Report: Clippers emerging as frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard

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Does Kawhi Leonard prefer the Clippers or Lakers in 2019 free agency? Reports have been mixed, though credible journalists have increasingly favored the Clippers since LeBron James signed with the Lakers. Yet, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN held out on the Lakers being Leonard’s top choice.

Now – with Jimmy Butler reportedly preferring a trade to the Clippers – Wojnarowski appears to be coming around on the Clippers.

Wojnarowski:

The Clippers have two max contract slots available in July, and are emerging as a front-runner for Toronto’s All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard when he becomes a free agent in July, league sources said.

Leonard and Butler would form a tantalizing tandem.

Butler reportedly wants to showcase himself in a big city while Leonard seemingly wants both to be in Los Angeles but remain out of the spotlight. Together, maybe they could both get what they want.

Though Butler’s demanding style has worn on teammates in Minnesota, nobody has ever accused Leonard of lacking work ethic or competitiveness. I bet Butler would respect Leonard.

They’re both elite defensively and at least very good offensively. There could be issues with how often each likes to isolate, but get all that talent to L.A. then figure out the rest later.

The question for the Clippers: Do they trade for Butler now or wait to try signing both stars in free agency next summer? The latter option carries more upside, allowing the Clippers to preserve assets. But it also risks Minnesota trading Butler and his Bird Rights to another team and him re-signing there.

The Clippers have several veterans – Tobias Harris, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari – who might appeal to Tom Thibodeau, who seemingly wants to win now. L.A. could also offer 2018 lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Alexander. However, the Clippers can’t convey a first-round pick until 2021 at the earliest.

I don’t know whether they’ll trade for Butler, but if the Clippers do, I know we’ll crank up the Leonard-Clippers speculation even higher. There’s value in putting that in Leonard’s mind while the Raptors are trying to woo him first-hand over the next year.