Free-agent center Rasho Nesterovic, long admired by the Spurs' coach, has agreed to sign a six-year deal with the Spurs estimated at $42 million.
Bill Duffy, Nesterovic's agent, told ESPN.com on Tuesday morning that the 7-footer decided to leave Minnesota for a new team after huddling with family members in Slovenia. Early in free-agent negotiations, even when the Spurs were in the midst of an all-out pursuit of Jason Kidd, Popovich traveled from a clinic in Serbia-Montenegro to visit Nesterovic and urge him to leave the Wolves for San Antonio.
"Rasho has a great fondess for Gregg Popovich," Duffy said. "This is a great opportunity to join a championship-caliber organization."
Nesterovic and P.J. Brown quickly became the Spurs' primary targets when their attempts to sign Kidd and Alonzo Mourning were foiled by New Jersey. The Spurs made an offer to Brown first, upon learning that Brown was on the verge of commiting to re-sign with his home-state New Orleans Hornets, but Nesterovic was always Popovich's preference. He's a true center, which appeals to Tim Duncan and Duncan's preference to play power forward, but Nesterovic can operate a high-post center. That should mesh well with Duncan's low-post game offensively.
Duncan and Nesterovic are expected to sign their new contracts Wednesday, the first day NBA teams are permitted to sign free agents. Duncan will receive a seven-year maximum contract worth $122 million. The Spurs will still have at least $12 million in salary-cap room after those transactions, but intend to re-sign swingman Stephen Jackson and will likely be searching for a new backup point guard with Speedy Claxton expected to sign a more lucrative deal elsewhere. It remains to be seen whether the Spurs pursue trades or add outside free agents with the surplus.
Nesterovic had narrowed his wish list down to two teams (Minnesota and San Antonio and one long shot (New York) Monday. Nesterovic received a seven-year offer on the table worth more than $50 million from the Wolves, whose original summer plan was to keep the Slovenian alongside Kevin Garnett on their front line. Minnesota was also hoping to add power forward Juwan Howard, but Howard has verbally committed to sign Wednesday with Orlando.