Tag Archives: Nikola Pekovic

SLC Punk’d (The Curse of Salt Lake City Edition)

The Wolves have not won a game in Salt Lake City since 2009.

The Wolves have not won a game in Salt Lake City since 2009.

After rolling over the Utah Jazz (14-28) 98-72 at home on Saturday, the Timberwolves (19-21) are in Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz in the second game of a rare home-and-home involving the Wolves.

On Friday, everything that could’ve gone right did. They got off to a 9-0 start, and led by as many as 36 at one point. Nikola Pekovic carved up Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and any other challengers on Utah’s front line en route to 27 points and a season-high 14 rebounds in just 29 minutes; Good Kevin Martin came to play, tallying 20 points; and Kevin Love had 18 and 13, totals that would’ve been higher had the Wolves needed him to play more minutes. (He played 29.)

On the Jazz side, what was already arguably the worst team in the NBA was without its best player, Gordon Hayward, and the team had a historically-bad shooting night, going a franchise-worst 28.8 percent (21 of 73). With 18 points, Alec Burks was the lone Jazz player in double-figures. For one night at least, the Wolves quieted some of the naysayers who’ve loudly criticized their decision not to select Trey Burke with the ninth pick in last summer’s draft. Ricky Rubio clearly outclassed Burke on Saturday night, holding the rookie to 9 points–almost five below his season average–on 2-10 from the field and two assists. Burke also had three turnovers.

Tonight’s game in Utah figures to be a more difficult win for the Wolves than was Saturday’s laugher for two reasons: Gordon Hayward and the Delta Center EnergySolutions Arena.

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Kings vs. Wolves (The Run DMC Edition)

pekovic-cousins1

I’m traveling on business, and have to make this short.

The Timberwolves (18-19) host the Sacramento Kings (13-23) tonight at 7:00 pm CT. You can see and hear the game at the usual places, FSN and WCCO 830-AM, respectively.

A few notes of interest:

  • Pekovic-Cousins Grudge Match: Two of the best (and biggest) centers in the NBA go head-to-head tonight in what looks to be the game’s marquee matchup. Cousins is having a monster year, ranking among the NBA’s top 10 in both points (23.5) and rebounds (11.6) per game, which puts him in a strong position to make this season’s All-Star game. Pek has arguably been the Wolves’ best player in recent games, beasting his way to 23 and 10 on 55% shooting and over 5 offensive rebounds over his last dozen games.  All I can say about their head-to-head matchup is by way of a public service announcement: Any time Nikola Pekovic and DeMarcus Cousins are set to go to war, hide your women and children.

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INBOX: Timberwolves at 76ers (The Closer/Active Shooter Edition)

 

Evan Turner

Evan Turner

The Wolves play at Philly tonight. I’m sure everyone involved is happy to be outside of Minnesota where the temps are so cold that the Governor canceled school (and apparently Minneapolis has already done the same for tomorrow). The game is at 6:00 CST and can be seen on FSN and heard on 830 WCCO.

Let’s preview this one in INBOX format.

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INBOX: Wolves Beat Boston, Derrick Williams Trade Rumors

Nikola Pekovic's emergence was key to last night's victory and is critical to the Timberwolves' long-term prospects

Nikola Pekovic’s emergence was key to last night’s victory and is critical to the Timberwolves’ long-term prospects (Artwork brought to you by Holly G)

Andy G: I closed yesterday’s post with: “If last night’s loss was an eye opener for the defense, perhaps a renewed focus can keep the Celtics under 90 points tonight and give the fans an enjoyable win to watch.”

Well, the Wolves held Boston to just 88 points, won by 18, and gave the fans a win that was mostly enjoyable to watch. Despite some first-half struggles from the Kevins, the Wolves used a combination of transition offense, J.J. Barea Hero Ball, and Nikola Pekovic glass eating to take a five-point lead after two quarters. In the second half, Kevin Martin calibrated his three-point range (he was short on just about everything in the first) and Kevin Love showed off hook shots while also grinding out foul-draws to the tune of a workmanlike 23 points and 12 rebounds. The 7 turnovers on his line are evidence of some of his struggles in this game. Robbie Hummel advanced the “positive correlation guy” narrative drum that I’m beating, with 8 points in 20 minutes of (+14) basketball. On defense, Adelman said that they wanted to make Boston a jumpshooting team. They pretty much succeeded at this. Early on, those jumpers went in. Later on, they didn’t. The lead grew and the Wolves cruised to a comfortable win. This team seems like a good front runner.

Let me get back to Pekovic for a moment because I think his performance gets to a bigger-picture issue with this team. With Ricky Rubio being such a non scorer (3 points combined in the two games this weekend) and nobody on the team possessing elite shot creating in the traditional mold of a LeBron/Melo/Wade/Kobe nature, I think one of the keys on nights like last night is to pound the offensive glass. There will be games like this one (the Cleveland loss was a good example) where the offense sputters and they’ll need an alternate route to points. Pek had 8 offensive boards last night and scored 20 points on 8-9 shooting. Most of these were putbacks.

As the Wolves continue to refine their offense — currently the league’s 9th best — the challenge will be to maximize all of the immense talents of Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love and Pek. In the early part of this season, Pek seemed almost like an odd man out, often losing shot opportunities to aggressive bucket hunters Love and Martin. One way he can unquestionably add value is to do what he did last night and crash the boards. After his huge game last night, his offensive rebounding percentage is up to 11.1 percent. Last season’s was 13.1 percent. It’d be nice to see him focus on getting back to this one skill that will be hugely important, particularly if Rick staggers his bench rotations like he did over the weekend, pairing Pekovic with Barea. J.J. is certain to create “Kobe Assist” opportunities with his kamikaze drives that usually draw an extra defender and often times clank off the rim.

All in all, a solid win over a bad team. Adelman emphasized after the game that good teams MUST win at home. He said that you then try to split on the road. Taken literally, he’s describing a path to winning three fourths of regular season games. While that’s a bit optimistic for this team (it’d be 61 or 62 wins, which even the most optimistic would be impressed by) it’s clear that Rick expects to win this season.

What else is happening?

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Timberwolves at Knicks: What to Watch For

Carmelo Anthony is licking his chops at the Wolves' defense

Carmelo Anthony is licking his chops at the Wolves’ defense

Your 2-0 Minnesota Timberwolves are in New York and take on the 1-1 Knicks Sunday night at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 Eastern.

Coming off a blowout victory Friday night against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wolves face another test tonight in Carmelo Anthony & co.

Here’s what to watch for tonight against the Knicks:

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A Pek-Sized Commitment

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artwork by Holly Grimsrud: http://www.hollygrimsrudart.com

Well, that took a while.

It would be wrong to say we were “anxiously” awaiting the news of Pekovic re-signing, because it seemed inevitable.  His potential suitors burned up their cap space elsewhere, the Wolves were reportedly offering market value, and… well, no respectable RFA takes the qualifying offer.  Pek was going to be re-signed.  The only questions were for how much money and for how many years.

Those questions were answered today when Flip Saunders broke the news that a deal had been reached.

Flip’s Twitter account makes me laugh.  When he’s trying to spell a foreign prospect’s name, it makes me cringe.  But it usually makes me laugh.

Jerry Z has all of the important deets over at On the Wolves.  Five years, $60 Million is a big commitment, but it’s a big commitment to a good player.  Importantly, the five year detail does not preclude the “super-max” offer to Ricky Rubio, the way it would have if the team used it on Kevin Love.  Apparently there are some incentives in the deal, but it sounds like roughly sixty mil.

This is good news, if not surprising news.  Nikola Pekovic is a good player.  Maybe even a very good — sometimes almost great — player.  Pek is smart.  He understands where he should be on the floor at all times.  On both ends.  He has a soft touch with his right hand hook, along with a drop step that must make Pete Newell smile in his grave.  Pek can make free throws, and — on defense — Pek can “wall up” to contest drives without fouling.

But most of all, Pek is a fucking badass in the paint.  Without a traditional “superstar” scorer in the mold of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade, and without the rangy team athleticism to hang their hat on elite defense, the Timberwolves need a different way to become great.  Ricky Rubio’s passing helps.  Kevin Love’s patented combination of rebounding and shooting certainly doesn’t hurt.  Pekovic adds an element of interior muscle that just exhausts opponents.  Maybe not Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol, but in 20 or more different NBA matchups the Wolves have an advantage where the opposing center is focusing mental and physical attention on keeping Pek out from under the rim.  It’s not an easy task, and it’s a way that teams will have to adjust their game plans around us, rather than vice versa.  Having sat through so many of these games since KG left, it’s refreshing to see the Wolves dictate personnel matchups.  Again, not every night, but a great deal of them.

In any case, I won’t spend more words than this news is worth.  You know who Pek is and what he brings.  He’s a fan fave.  “The Godfather.”

I’m glad he’ll be here for five more seasons.

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Show Me the Money

AriGold

To the great Arn Tellem, who orchestrated that ludicrous Tyreke contract AND got two more of his clients (Vasquez and Robin Lopez) traded to more favorable situations. How? He reps Anthony Davis, that’s how.

That’s been an underrated subplot lately: Teams buttering up power agents by overpaying their fringe clients as down payments for future extensions with the ones they really want. Just call them “down-payment contracts.” An even better example: Dan Fegan represents Martell Webster (mysteriously signed by the Wizards for a comically high $22 million) and John Wall (about to sign an $80 million extension with, yup, the Wizards). Congrats on your down-payment contract, Martell! Does this stuff work in real life? I might hire Tellem before my next ESPN contract — I want to see if I can get House and JackO multimillion-dollar deals.

–Bill Simmons, in Part 2 of his “Midnight Run” off-season column. This touches on Nikola Pekovic, and his weirdly-long and ongoing contract negotiations.  In Case You Missed It, Pek has the same agent as Kevin Love (Jeff Schwartz). In case this is your first time reading anything about the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love will — in all likelihood — be a free agent in 2015; just two more seasons away. It would shock no one if Schwartz was dropping not-even-a-little-bit-subtle hints about Client A during contract negotiations for Client B. I think that might be how the world works, actually.

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by | August 1, 2013 · 6:12 AM