Ex-Raptor James signs four-year deal with Wolves

Updated: July 13, 2006, 9:39 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Mike James
James

The Minnesota Timberwolves' willingness to make a four-year commitment to Mike James landed them the best point guard still available on the free-agent market.

James on Thursday signed a four-year contract with the Wolves worth $23.5 million.

James had narrowed his choice to Minnesota, Dallas and Houston -- where he maintains an offseason home -- and indicated over the weekend that the Mavericks had a slight edge, largely because of his relationship with Mavs coach Avery Johnson and their recent trip to the NBA Finals.

But the Mavericks, according to sources, wouldn't commit to more than a three-year offer to the 31-year-old. James told the Houston Chronicle that the Rockets would not offer a four-year contract that included a player option to become a free agent after the third season.

Minnesota's four-year pitch includes the ability to become a free agent after year three and a trade kicker, which pays him a bonus if he is dealt by the Wolves. It also provides the chance to team with Kevin Garnett won it for the Wolves, who have injected their backcourt with plenty of scoring potential by signing James and acquiring rookie Randy Foye on draft night.

"They had a great conversation and that meant a lot to Mike," James' agent, Bill Duffy, told The Associated Press. "Garnett told him he needed him there. That says a lot about Garnett to do that and it says a lot about Mike that Garnett wanted him."

Signing James alleviates Minnesota's need to start Foye as a rookie. James would likely team with Ricky Davis as the Wolves' starters in the backcourt, with defensive stopper Trenton Hassell at small forward and Foye coming off the bench.

If Foye can make an immediate impact and James can approach his production from last season's breakout performance in Toronto -- 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game, as well as 44.2 percent shooting from 3-point range -- Garnett figures to be pleased.

The Wolves have resisted all trade interest in Garnett, vowing to take one more stab at building around their 30-year-old franchise player by finding scorers to play off him.

Even though he's building a new house in Houston, James was adamant that the Rockets include the trade bonus after the Rockets dealt him to Toronto on the first day of training camp last season.

"I had to have two things; only one team gave them to me," James told the Houston Chronicle. "Everyone gave me the same amount of money. I specifically asked for a player option on my third year and a trade kicker, and [the Rockets] said no. I had to have those two things. After what they put me through, I couldn't sign with them without those things."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics