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MINNEAPOLIS – Ricky Rubio is getting a four-year, $56 million contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves and Rubio's agents, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana of Relativity Sports, have been negotiating for more than two months and had until midnight to reach a deal or Rubio would have become a restricted free agent after the season.
"I am happy to be staying with the Wolves and look forward to many successful seasons in Minnesota," Rubio said in a statement issued Friday night. "Our fans have been great and I am excited to be able to play in front of them for many years. I will continue to work hard to improve my game and help our team get better."
Rubio is in his fourth season with the Wolves since coming over from Spain in 2011. He has yet to make an All-Star team, but has become the face of the franchise after they traded Kevin Love this summer.
Rubio averaged 10.1 points, 8.1 assists and 2.3 steals but shot just 37 percent in his first three seasons. The shooting numbers led some to say the Timberwolves would have been better off waiting to see how Rubio performs this season before extending him an offer given that they would have had the ability to match any offer that he received on the open market next summer.
But owner Glen Taylor has long been big on loyalty, and after going back and forth with Fegan and Akana over the numbers since training camp opened at the start of October, the chairman of the NBA's board of governors reached out directly to Rubio earlier this week to make one last push.
As salaries stand right now, the extension will make Rubio the eighth-highest paid point guard in the league. His $13.75 million average annual salary will be more than high profile point guards like Tony Parker, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson. The deal includes $1 million in incentives.
In Rubio, Taylor and Flip Saunders, the team's president of basketball operations, head coach and minority owner, see a dynamic 24-year-old point guard who is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Rubio was the fifth overall pick in 2009 by previous team president David Kahn, and the Wolves have invested a significant amount of time and resources in his development.
His presence as a rookie immediately turned around a team that hadn't made the playoffs in seven seasons. Rubio's energy and skills helped the Wolves climb to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs in early March before he tore two ligaments in his left knee in a game against the Lakers.
The Wolves crumbled after that and Rubio has spent the last two years working his way back from that injury. He has also worked hard with shooting coach Mike Penberthy to improve his jumpshot and is determined to be considered one of the best in the league.
And after trading Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, Rubio also became the player that will lead youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett into the post-Love era.
"He came to us with such high expectations and he immediately proved why we were so high on him," Taylor said. "Unfortunately he got hurt at the end of his rookie season, but he has worked so hard to come back and we believe he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He's a great foundation for our franchise and we're very happy to keep Ricky here long term to work and grow with the young nucleus that we have."
One of the league's best passers, Rubio got quite an assist from the NBA's new television deal. The league signed new agreements with ESPN and Turner totaling $24 billion earlier this month. It remains unclear just how soon the massive extensions will flood the league with cash and send the salary cap soaring, but the inevitability helped the Timberwolves feel more comfortable writing a bigger check to lock Rubio in through the 2018-19 season.
Taylor attended the league's board of governors meeting last week and got new updates on the television deal, including proposals on how the influx of cash might be phased in over the next couple of seasons.
After having further discussions with the league last week, and watching Rubio deliver a promising performance during the preseason, Taylor decided to make the commitment to the flashy Spaniard as the team's point guard of the present and future.
Negotiations were tense at times, with the Timberwolves starting out in July with a four-year offer in the $45 million range while Fegan was looking for the five-year maximum offer that Kahn had all but promised Rubio years ago.
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