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A source close to free agent J.J. Barea tells TNT’s David Aldridge that the 27-year-old is finalizing details on a four-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which would further add to that team’s seemingly inexhaustable supply of guards.
Barea, who starred in the postseason last spring during the Dallas Mavericks’ run to the NBA title, took more in Minnesota than in New York, which had been talking about a two-year deal, according to the source. But after using the amnesty provision on Saturday to waive guard Chauncey Billups and dealing forward Ronny Turiaf to Washington as part of the three-team deal that sent Tyson Chandler to New York, the Knicks technically fell under the cap, and thus lost their ability to use the mid-level exception starting at $5 million. They only had the new “room” exception for teams that are below the tax threshold that starts at $2.5 million to offer.
The Timberwolves could be looking for a mentor for their high-profile rookie guard, Ricky Rubio, who finally came over to the NBA after starring in Europe as a teenager. Rubio was taken fifth overall by the Wolves in 2009 but remained in Europe until this summer. The Wolves already have veteran guard Luke Ridnour on the roster as well.
The Mavericks, who are intent on keeping cap flexibility next season, only offered Barea a one-year deal, the source said. That left Barea feeling “betrayed” after he’d become a key contributor for Dallas the past few seasons and a major factor last season off the bench in the playoffs for the Mavericks, averaging 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in 18.6 minutes per game in the postseason. He shot almost 42 percent from behind the three-point line, and his 22-point, 8-assist effort in the clinching game over the Lakers in the second round so frustrated Lakers center Andrew Bynum that Bynum cheap-shotted Barea in the closing minutes of the Mavericks’ Game 4 series-clinching rout, earning an ejection and five-game suspension at the beginning of this season.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle started Barea during The Finals against the Heat, and the diminutive guard provided a major spark for Dallas en route to its 4-2 series win over Miami.
After waiving Billups, the Knicks clearly need help at the point. Their current starter is second-year guard Toney Douglas, though first-round pick Iman Shumpert could see some time there as well this season. And Barea would have been an ideal distributor in Mike D’Antoni‘s high-octane offensive attack.