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 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Through the glare of a 60-loss season, the Minnesota Timberwolves saw several young players as part of their future. For guys like Ryan Gomes, this is shaping into a mutual commitment.
Gomes, who signed a five-year contract Tuesday that could be worth more than $20 million, liked enough of what he saw in the organization to accompany teammate Corey Brewer and other Wolves employees on their annual three-day caravan around the state last week. The parameters of his deal weren't finalized until Friday, meaning Gomes went to meet-and-greets and autograph sessions without certainty he would be re-signed.
``There's very few people that would've lived up to that commitment,'' vice president Kevin McHale said. ``I could probably count on one hand the people in our league who would do that.''
Just as the Wolves made it a priority to give Gomes, Craig Smith and Sebastian Telfair new contracts so they could be a part of the Al Jefferson-led core now supplemented by draft-night acquisitions Mike Miller and Kevin Love, Gomes has prioritized community outreach as part of his status as an NBA player.
``When you're a pro athlete, you have to take on some types of responsibilities,'' Gomes said.
He wanted to hold a news conference to discuss his new deal on the north side of Minneapolis at Fairview Community Center, where he donated the first of several automated external defibrillators that his nonprofit - Hoops for Heart Health - is dedicated to distributing across the country.
Several kids were seated near the podium, and McHale playfully turned the end of the question-and-answer session over to them.
``Do you like donating money to people?'' one boy asked.
Gomes smiled and responded with a less-blunt answer.
``Yes, I like to give back to the community and doing charitable things,'' he said.
According to the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, the Wolves have the option to extend Gomes's contract for a third and fourth year. The final option, for a fifth year, is the player's. Gomes is guaranteed $3.5 million next season and $3.8 million in 2009-10.
That ought to give him plenty of opportunity to continue his charitable work, not to mention provide for his baby daughter, Ryelle, born to wife Danielle in June. Yes, during a summer when his first big contract was due through his first foray into restricted free agency, Gomes had his priorities straight.
That's part of why McHale wanted to keep him. He has often said over the past year he likes his new players more as people than for what they can do on the court.
So what can Gomes do on the court? Well, the biggest reason the Wolves brought Gomes back was probably consistency, followed closely by versatility. The competition for playing time at the forward positions will be crowded, but Gomes can play power forward in a smaller, faster lineup or move to the small forward spot when they want to go big.
The 25-year-old Gomes played in all 82 games, 74 as a starter, and averaged a career-best 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.
``If we're together four, five, six years, this could be something very, very special Minnesota's been waiting to see,'' Gomes said. ``We have the confidence that we can do it, but all that is on paper. We've got to go out there and perform and outdo the teams that are standing in front of us. And from the looks of last year, there was a lot of 'em. We have a lot to prove.''
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