MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves’ front office maintains confidence Ricky Rubio will be here beyond the extent of his current contract.
It’s the particulars, general manager Milt Newton said Thursday, that are holding up the pass-happy point guard’s extension process.
"I feel optimistic," Newton told reporters after the Wolves’ pre-training camp workout at the Target Center’s Lifetime Fitness center. "Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here.
"We just have to deal with his agent."
That’d be sports management mogul Dan Fegan, who’s reportedly been pushing for a maximum, "designated player" salary. Despite some shortcomings, the Wolves still believe in the former fifth overall draft pick but aren’t about to pay him the roughly $75 million over five years a max would entail.
Instead, Rubio is likely in line for a four-year deal paying him between $40 million and $48 million.
Negotiations are ongoing, Newton said, though he wouldn’t even call them that.
"We have Ricky for two more years, and we’re in constant contact with his agent," Newton said. "There are some things that we agree on, some things we don’t agree on."
The discord, Newton made clear, is in regard to salary.
If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by Oct. 31, Rubio will play out this season and become a restricted free agent next summer. The Wolves would then have the right to re-sign him up front or match any offer sheets he receives from other teams.
"If we can get something worked out, fine," Newton said. "If not . . . he’s under contract."
In some ways, it’d be in Minnesota’s interest to wait. Letting Rubio become a restricted free agent and entertain outside offer sheets would allow the market, rather than Fegan, to determine his value. The only way that backfires is if Rubio has an All-Star-type season and suddenly looks worthy of a max deal — and decides to try and obtain it from another club.
The franchise that just traded away Kevin Love in part because he felt disrespected doesn’t want to risk a similar path with Rubio.
"Going forward, you want to show good will and trust in a player," said Newton, who took in Thursday’s workout while president of basketball operations and coach Flip Saunders was in Chicago for coaches’ meetings. "So it can kind of go both ways whether you wait or do something now, but it has to be right for both sides."
Losing Love stung Rubio, he told FOX Sports 1 NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski in a recent Yahoo Sports article, but he’s not thinking about going anywhere for the time being.
"I’m loyal," Rubio, an electric playmaker who has yet to find an NBA shooting touch, told Wojnarowski after he and host country Spain fell in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals. "I want to give them back what they gave me there: a lot of love."
After Love’s camp made it clear he wanted out of Minnesota, Saunders and his staff were tenaciously patient in executing the deal that best suited their interests. The current straits aren’t nearly as dire, but Newton said they’ll use the same strategy while dealing with Rubio.
"We’re going to look at the situation the same way we did with Kevin," Newton said. "We’re going to do the best thing for the organization, and if we can get something done sooner, great. If not, we’re not necessarily in a rush."