HANG TIME, Texas — You can never say that Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn lets the grass grow under his feet. If he delivers on the rumor of sending Wesley Johnson to Phoenix as part of a three-team trade that also includes New Orleans, he’ll have dealt away five first-round picks in just two years.
More important, he could bounce back after losing out on the offer sheet to Nicolas Batum by bringing forward Andrei Kirilenko back to the NBA from Russia.
According to the relentless Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, there would be a sign-and-trade deal that sends Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the Hornets and also a lottery-protected first-round draft pick to the Suns.
The teams were still finalizing details, but sources said that Lopez, a restricted free agent, was returning soon from a vacation to take a physical for the Hornets. New Orleans had been working diligently for weeks on acquiring a center to play alongside No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, and give Davis some inside support.
Kirilenko has a buyout in his CSKA of Moscow contract that allows him to return to the NBA. He ruled out the Brooklyn Nets and Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Tuesday because the Nets simply couldn’t pay him beyond the veteran’s minimum of $1.2 million, sources said. Kirilenko has been searching for a deal that would pay him in the vicinity of $8 million annually, and Minnesota could have the cap space to do so.
Minnesota is signing another Russian, point guard Alexey Shved, to a free-agent contract. The T’wolves signed Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum to a $45 million offer sheet, but the Trail Blazers matched the money to retain him.
Kirilenko, 31, is eight years older, but would fill many of the same needs the Timberwolves were chasing when they went after Batum. After playing 10 NBA seasons with the Jazz, Kirilenko spent last season with CSKA Moscow, where he was named Euroleague MVP.
It’s said that a two-year, $18 million offer with a player option for a third season could close the deal for Kirilenko. It’s a far cry from the $17 million he was paid by the Jazz in 2010-11, but would be money well spent for a Wolves roster that could use a defender on the front line.