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Timberwolves sign Mike James to four-year deal

7/13/2006

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves signed point guard Mike James on Thursday.

Their summer plans don't stop there, though. They could still
use a reliable outside shooter and a big man, too, who can bang
around and grab some rebounds. With an overflow of guards, the
Timberwolves also will see if they can pull off a trade or two.

James is getting a four-year deal that will start with a $5.215
million salary for 2006-07. That's the mid-level salary cap
exception number, announced by the league Wednesday.

The luxury tax level was set at $65.42 million, and general
manager Jim Stack said Minnesota is currently underneath that by
about $1 million. Any team whose player payroll exceeds that figure
must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax.

Strapped by big contracts and diminished market values, the
Wolves must try to sort out their crowded backcourt. Rookie Randy
Foye isn't going anywhere, but the other combination guard, veteran
Troy Hudson, has not been fully healthy since 2003 and still has
four years left on his deal. Another disappointing point guard,
Marko Jaric, has five seasons remaining on his contract.

Shooting guard Rashad McCants has several months left in his
recovery from major knee surgery. Then there are swingmen Ricky
Davis and Trenton Hassell. Oh, and another guard, Bracey Wright.

Stack, speaking by phone from a summer league game in Las Vegas,
even said unrestricted free agent point guard Marcus Banks was not
completely out of the picture -- though acknowledging it was
unlikely he would be signed.

"We're in conversation with Marcus, but he's looking around as
well so it remains to be seen how that's going to play itself
out," Stack said. "If we move a guard in another direction, he
may be a guy that we could go back to but that's hard to say right
now."

Minnesota offered Banks a contract, but he didn't bite. In
simultaneous discussions with the agents for both him and James,
Stack said, the Wolves wound up wooing James, who is far more
polished.

James was introduced at a Thursday afternoon news
conference. Stack predicted that the 31-year-old would complement perennial All-Star
forward Kevin Garnett well.

Last season with Toronto, his fifth in the league, James
averaged a career-best 20.3 points and 5.8 assists for the Raptors.
The Wolves are his seventh NBA team.

"We felt like we needed a guy with some swagger," Stack said.
"That's one thing people know Mike James to be: A guy who's not
afraid to step up in the fourth quarter."

The Associated Press and SportsTicker contributed to this report.