MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Waiting for the future to arrive has been hard on the young and impatient Minnesota Timberwolves. It will be even harder under a league-wide shutdown that could wipe out part of next season.
The NBA lockout imposed by owners at midnight Tuesday means the Wolves will have to wait indefinitely for two of the most important rounds of contract talks in franchise history.
Tom Gugliotta, who was the Wolves’ first All-Star in 1997 but missed the second half of last season with an injury, has exercised the option to get out of his contract. He is a free agent, but can’t negotiate during the lockout.
Stephon Marbury has one year left on his three-year rookie deal. If the league were running as usual, the Wolves would have until Oct. 1 to re-sign him to a long-term pact, otherwise he would become a free agent after next season.
That’s the same process the Wolves went through with Kevin Garnett last year before giving him a $126 million, seven-year extension. Now they must wait until the lockout ends to talk with Marbury.
When will that be? No one knows.
“There are two breaks, as I see it,” Wolves owner Glen Taylor said during last week’s NBA draft. “It’ll go right up to the season. Then there’s the pressure to get the thing done. … If you break that, I personally think you’re not going to break it for a few games. You’re going to take a pretty good chunk (of the season). It could be three months.”
Gugliotta, the versatile 6-foot-10 power forward, earned $5.5 million last season and was to earn $6.2 million in 1998-99. It was believed, at least under the NBA rules that expired when the lockout fell, that Gugliotta could command a seven-year deal worth $80 million or more.
Richard Howell, Gugliotta’s agent, did not return a telephone call Tuesday.
“Tom, so far, has been a loser on this lockout,” Howell told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Monday. “The world games are not going to happen (for NBA players), and that’s something he was looking forward to.”
However, Wolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said waiting for the lockout to end won’t doom their chances of re-signing Gugliotta.
The Wolves needed nearly every hour of their 90-day negotiating period last year to re-sign Garnett, whose agent, Eric Fleisher, also represents Marbury.
After Garnett signed, Marbury said his negotiations would go more smoothly, but over the winter he made it clear he wouldn’t accept a bargain-basement deal just to keep the nucleus of the team together.
Marbury wants a contract that will nudge into Garnett’s stratosphere — Garnett’s package is the richest in sports history.
The Wolves also have several other key free agents to sign, including Terry Porter, Sam Mitchell and Cherokee Parks. They can’t work on those deals, either, under the lockout.