The latest news and notes from around the Northwest Division on Wednesday evening:
In one of only two games on Sunday's preseason schedule, undrafted Spurs rookie Wesley Witherspoon was inserted into the starting lineup and scored a team-high 17 points in a win over Houston. Witherspoon, a camp invitee, is still a long shot to earn a roster spot, but if Sunday's game was his last with the Spurs, at least he went out in style, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
Here are a few more notes out of the Western Conference:
AUGUST 2ND, 1:35pm: Stiemsma has officially signed with the Timberwolves, according to the team's official PR Twitter feed.
JULY 24TH, 8:00am: The Celtics have withdrawn their qualifying offer to Stiemsma, making him an unrestricted free agent, according to Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. This clears the way for the Timberwolves to sign the big man outright.
JULY 22ND, 4:26pm: The deal is for one year and about $3MM, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
3:59pm: The Timberwolves and Greg Stiemsma have agreed to terms on a contract, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune reports (Twitter link). The deal will be for an amount greater than the $1.957MM biannual exception the Celtics were limited to giving him, Zgoda tweets, and comes after Stiemsma's agent Mike Naiditch set today as the deadline for Minnesota to sign Stiemsma at a rate cheaper than he could get elsewhere. Stiemsma reportedly received a significant offer from another team. A report earlier in the week suggested the Wolves would offer him a deal close to $3MM a year.
Though the Celtics were said to be likely to rescind his qualifying offer as of last night, they haven't done so, meaning he's technically still a restricted free agent. Since the Celtics, who are over the cap, only have non-Bird rights on Stiemsma and can't exceed the value of the biannual exception to keep him, they'll be unable to match the Wolves' offer.
Stiemsma averaged 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a first-year minimum-salary player for the Celtics last season. He went undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2008 and played in the D-League before getting his shot in Boston.
It's been a busy day for the Timberwolves, who finalized their deal with Alexey Shved, and agreed to a three-team deal that appears to clear the way for an agreement with Andrei Kirilenko. They're also likely to put the finishing touches on contracts for Brandon Roy and Greg Stiemsma by next week, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Wednesday was active for the Trail Blazers, too, as we heard they've narrowed their list of head coaching candidates. We've got more on both Northwest Division teams right here:
JULY 25th, 5:09pm: The Lakers have officially announced the signing, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com (Twitter link).
JULY 20th, 7:59pm: Power forward Jordan Hill has reached an agreement to re-sign with the Lakers on a two-year deal worth nearly $8MM, his agent Kevin Bradbury tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Bradbury said Thursday the Timberwolves were "right there" with the Lakers in the competition for Hill's services, but apparently the Lakers won out, helped by their status as a title contender.
Wednesday, a report by Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com suggested the Lakers would turn their attention to re-signing Hill and extending the contract of Andrew Bynum if they were to back off trade talks for Dwight Howard, but it's unclear exactly what bringing back Hill means for a Howard-to-L.A. deal.
The Lakers are limited to paying Hill no more than $3,632,527 for 2012/13, believed to be the value of the team option in his previous contract. The Rockets declined that option long before a midseason trade that sent him to the Lakers. Teams are prohibited from re-signing players to contracts that would give the player a higher salary in a season than what he would have earned if his option had not been declined. Bradbury told David Aldridge of TNT that Hill turned down larger offers to return to the Lakers (Twitter link).
Hill averaged 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds a game with a 15.8 PER last season with the Rockets and Lakers, coming to L.A. in a midseason trade. He appeared in only seven regular season games for the Lakers, but played in all 12 playoff games, leading all postseason performers in offensive rebounding percentage.
The Wolves, who've missed out on other targets like Nicolas Batum and Courtney Lee of late, seem poised to shift their focus to Celtics restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
Greg Stiemsma and agent Mike Naiditch have been patiently awaiting an offer from the Timberwolves while the team deals with other priorities, but that's about to change, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Naiditch said Stiemsma's willing to give the Wolves a discount, but suggested that won't be the case unless an offer is made today (Twitter link).
Stiemsma would like to play near his native Wisconsin, as Zgoda notes, and with the Bucks never a serious contender for him, Minnesota represents his closest option (Twitter link). Last night Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com reported that an unidentified team has made a significant offer, noting that it's not the Wolves. It's not the Celtics, either, since they're limited to offering the biannual exception of $1.957MM and appear likely to withdraw their qualifying offer, making Stiemsma an unrestricted free agent.
Stiemsma seems likely to sign for more than $2MM per year, and could fit into a team's $3MM mini mid-level exception or the $2.5MM room exception. A team with cap room could sign him, too, of course. He could wind up with the Cavs, who might be after frontcourt help following the loss of free agent Antawn Jamison and their unsuccessful amnesty waiver claim of Luis Scola, but that's just my speculation. If the Wolves don't sign him, Zgoda suggests Ronny Turiaf might be next in line for the team (Twitter link).
9:57pm: Forsberg says the team making the offer is not the Timberwolves, though he doesn't identify which team it is.
9:17pm: The Celtics have been outbid for Greg Stiemsma and are likely to withdraw their qualifying offer for the 6'11" big man, making him an unrestricted free agent, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com hears that a team has made an offer to Stiemsma that exceeds the $1.054MM qualifying offer from the Celtics, and Zgoda hears the same via Stiemsma's agent (Twitter links).
I'd guess the team making the offer to Stiemsma is the Timberwolves, since a report earlier this week from A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com indicated Minnesota was prepared to offer him an annual salary of nearly $3MM. That would be about $1MM more than the Celtics could offer with their biannual exception. Boston, which has only had Stiemsma under contract for a year, has non-Bird rights on Stiemsma, allowing for a 120% raise or the amount of his qualifying offer, whichever is greater -- and in Stiemsma's case, the qualifying offer is greater. The biannual exception amount of $1.957MM would be the most the Celtics could pay him, but it appears that still won't be enough to bring Stiemsma back.
Stiemsma and agent Mike Naiditch have expressed a willingness to be patient while the Wolves work on other priorities, but with Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee and Jordan Hill eluding the team's grasp, it appears Stiemsma is finally the priority atop Wolves GM David Kahn's desk. Stiemsma was a revelation for the Celtics last season after spending most of his career overseas and in the D-League after going undrafted out of the University of Wisconsin in 2008. The 13.9 minutes per game he saw in 55 contests for the Celtics were more than he averaged in any of his four collegiate seasons, He put up 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night in the regular season before an aching left foot limited his playing time and effectiveness in the playoffs.
A couple more notable names came off the free agent market this morning, when Kris Humphries landed a two-year deal from the Nets and Grant Hill agreed to sign with the Clippers. While a number of solid rotation players are still available, the market is rapidly thinning for teams in search of starters. As clubs continue to jockey to sign the remaining available players, we'll track many of today's free agent rumors right here: