Achilles issues kept Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic out of the final 19 games of 2014-15, as well as the first 35 games of the 2015-16 campaign, but the big fellow from Montenegro made his return on January 6th in Denver. He scored 12 points in his 15 minutes of action, an encouraging season debut. Sam Mitchell, under the careful guidance of the training staff, eased Pek back into the swing of things – they held him out of back-to-backs, and the most minutes he logged over the next three and a half weeks in the rotation was 17:33 against Oklahoma City.
But since the calendar turned to February, Pek hasn’t suited up for a game, citing recurring pain in his surgically repaired foot. Today, the Wolves formally announced their 30-year-old center would remain out of the lineup indefinitely in order to further rehabilitate his right Achilles. Here is a large section of their statement on the matter:
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that center Nikola Pekovic will be out indefinitely as he continues his recovery from surgery on his right Achilles. Pekovic underwent a debridement and repair of his right Achilles on April 8, 2015.
“Our main concern is for the health of Nikola,” said Timberwolves General Manager Milt Newton. “Our priority is getting him back on the court, playing at a consistent level for a sustained period of time. After much consulting with Nikola, our medical staff and some of the leading doctors in this field, we believe this is a necessary step in that process.”
“A typical recovery from an Achilles surgery is 9-15 months,” said Timberwolves Vice President of Sports Performance Arnie Kander. “While we’ve made significant strides with Nikola since his surgery, we’ve come to the conclusion that to ensure he has the best opportunity for sustained success on the court, we need to continue to focus on his rehab and make that the priority. We will continue to do that for the foreseeable future with the goal of him returning to the court at the appropriate time. We will continue to provide further updates as they relate to his return to action.”
It’s tough for any outside observer to analyze injury news in great detail – it’d be pretty irresponsible to try to play doctor, or to sound the alarm bells and say definitively that Pek’s career is over – but this certainly doesn’t seem good. For Kander and the medical staff to clear Pekovic, he must have been mostly pain-free, or at least dealing with a tolerable amount of pain. After 12 games of very limited minutes, something changed, worse pain returned, and now he’s out again.
It’s a bummer, because Pek is one of the most interesting players and personalities on the team. Thanks to his (ever-expanding) menagerie of tattoos and eerie resemblance to a Bond villain, Pek is often seen by the casual fan as a scary or intimidating figure. He really, really isn’t – he loves playing with teammates’ kids, is often joking around in the locker room, and seems to genuinely enjoy laughing and making people laugh. People describe him as a teddy bear.
Well, I mean, maybe Brandon Knight wouldn’t…
He’s a throwback player in many ways – a near-7-footer with a below-the-rim game, excellent rebounding skills (especially on the offensive glass) and a surprising amount of finesse and touch around the basket. He’s hit 76% of his career free throws – a terrific mark for a big man who got to the line as often as he did.
It’d be great if he found a solution, a way to stay healthy enough to play 15-20 minutes per night in 55-65 games per season. He’s under contract next season at $12.1 million, and his $11.6 million salary in 2017-18 is partially guaranteed. Best case scenario – Arnie Kander works some magic, and we get some glimpses of the old Pek again.
But if you’re pessimistic, or if you’re just feeling glum about the news, watch this video on repeat until you feel better.