Now that he knows what it's like to be courted as a free agent, Terrell Brandon wants to experience the thrill of finally playing for a contender.
"There really wasn't another team that I could say really interested me as much as Minnesota," the two-time All-Star point guard said Tuesday after signing a six-year, $59 million deal to stay with the Timberwolves.
Brandon arrived from Milwaukee last March as part of the three-team trade that sent disgruntled point guard Stephon Marbury to New Jersey.
Brandon refused to sign an extension last spring, saying he wanted to test free agency for the first time in an eight-year NBA career that included six seasons in Cleveland.
"It was nice," Brandon said of flirtations with other teams, including the Toronto Raptors. "And I think people really didn't understand where I was coming from, just having the opportunity to go through it once in my career. Just being free. I had never been one before."
Still, Brandon said his intentions all along were to stay put.
"I don't think it got very serious with other teams; phone calls here and there and possible sign-and-trades, it came up a lot," he said. "As far as putting it in writing, my agent knew I wanted to be here."
Bill Duffy, Brandon's agent, said his client wanted dearly to pick his place to play for the first time since choosing to attend Oregon in 1988, even though few teams could afford his asking price.
"He played the first eight years of his career without being able to determine that," Duffy said. "Now, the marketplace changed. It wasn't like there were 12 clubs that could have paid him whatever. So, it would have been on a sign-and-trade basis. We could have manipulated his destination, but he chose to be here."
Duffy said Brandon valued his short-term exposure to coach Flip Saunders, owner Glen Taylor and vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale.
"I think he trusts them and he knows Kevin McHale is all about winning championships and that's what Terrell wants to do," Duffy said. "He's had a lot of individual success. Now he has the financial security and the only thing left is to reach the top."
Saunders said the Kevin Garnett-led Wolves are finally poised for playoff success with the signing of Brandon and free agents Tom Hammonds and Joe Smith, along with first-round draft picks Wally Szczerbiak and William Avery.
"I think we've got some stability," Saunders said. "I don't think you win in this league until you do have some stability."
Brandon has been beset by inuries throughout his career. Saunders said he should be able to keep Brandon's health in check by spelling him with Avery and Bobby Jackson.
"We're not going to have to play Terrell 40 minutes a game," Saunders said.
Brandon averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 assists last season, leading the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio.
"We think this is a big step for us going where we want to go, which is homecourt advantage in the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs," McHale said. "No longer are we content just to make the playoffs. Those days are over. We've got to start advancing and making runs in the playoffs."
"And we feel Terrell is going to be the man that's going to lead us there."
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