The 1989 Free Agency Period...
Many familiar faces were on the market as free agency kicked off on July 1st, 1989. Fat Lever, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone were only some of the games superstars who teams were vying for. We knew that the Timberwolves, being an upstart franchise in a small market, were going to have a hard time getting into serious discussions with players. It was important that we try.
So, at the stroke of midnight, my staff and I hit the phones. We cast a wide net, yet were also calculated in what players we called. Agents were not receptive to our overtures; so, we made our offers and continued down our list.
Once a few days passed, Magic Johnson, Chris Mullin, Terry Porter, and Joe Dumars all turned us down. Midway through the process, we cut Pace Mannion in an effort to free up a roster spot. We cast a wider net, and reached out to players like Reggie Theus, Brad Davis, and Jerry Reynolds. Again, no luck. The market would kick us out, as I refused to overpay for guys who I did not think would fit with us long term. Theus ended up signing with the Clippers for four years at $9,537,230 total. Davis stayed in Dallas, signing a four year deal worth $4,099,545. Reynolds left for Cleveland on a four year, $2,2736,214 deal.
I knew we had money to spend, but I also knew that didn’t mean I had to spend it.
Yet I had a mandate from ownership that they wanted us to sign somebody who could help the business department sell tickets. And as free agency continued onward, I was worried I was going to fail them. Short term gains weren’t attractive to me if that meant jeopardizing our long-term future: I wanted to build a contender, after all. Somehow, though, I struck the perfect balance when long-time Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar agreed to sign with us on a one-year deal for $373,672 with a player option for a second year. Despite being 42 years old, and well past his prime, I knew Kareem was precisely the kind of big name who could help sell tickets in Minneapolis. While the second year was not ideal (who wants to be locked in paying what could be a horrible Kareem at 43 years old), I was willing to sacrifice next year’s payroll a little bit in order to satisfy ownership.
Free Agency Summary
By the time the free agency period cooled off, the Boston Celtics were a shell of themselves. Bird, gone to Houston. Parish, gone to Cleveland. And in Los Angeles, the loss of Magic Johnson to the Sixers was going to be devastating. Tons of big names moved, completing shifting the landscape of the NBA. We in Minneapolis just couldn’t play ball in the changing landscape—as an unknown quantity, nobody knew what to expect from us. While my focus was and is to buld through the draft, I was disappointed with our turnout this year; based on our roster, I quietly thought that we were going to stink to high heaven this season. But the boys and I in the front office did what we had to get by. It was time to see just how our creation would fare…
As it is not too clear what Magic, Mullin, Porter, and Dumars signed for, I wanted to provide you with some precise figures. Magic signed for a total of $25,725,000. Mullin signed for a total of $23,581,250. Porter signed for a total of $23,581.250. Dumars signed for a total of $18,375,000.
Also, not shown here is Bill Laimbeer. I mention him because he was the second big name from the Pistons to leave Detroit. He signed with the Clippers for 4 years at a total of $10,8989,224.
NEXT: The 1989 NBA Preseason...