Tuesday morning, in a move that was a long time coming, the Minnesota Timberwolves waived center Nikola Pekovic. The 31-year-old native of Montenegro appeared in his final Timberwolves game way back on 1-31-2016 and missed the entire 2016-17 season. “Pek” finishes with career averages of 12.6 and 6.7 rebounds on 52% shooting in 271 games (194 starts) over 6 NBA seasons.
Foot, ankle, and Achilles injuries wrecked him – his career high in appearances was just 62 (in 2012-13) and by the time he gutted out 12 games in January of 2016, he was a shell of his former self. While nothing in their recent press release mentioned any details, it is expected the team will seek medical retirement, meaning a) insurance will cover a chunk of the $11.6 million he’s owed in 2017-18 and b) the team will get salary cap relief during the final season of his deal.
Three of us at A Wolf Among Wolves have more or less already said goodbye to the popular big man. Zach Harper remembered all the quirky, funny things that made us love him, Tim Faklis broke down just how much of a matchup nightmare he was for opposing defenders, and I recalled a few locker room stories that still make me laugh.
Pekovic, who wasn’t with the team at all last year, already has a jump-start on his post-career life: he’s back home, running the Partizan Belgrade basketball club, and (presumably) getting more fearsome tattoos and (hopefully) wrestling bears. It’s disappointing that he wasn’t able to finish the lucrative 5 year, $60 million contract he signed in the summer of 2013 as a contributor, but his lower body betrayed him, no matter what he tried. He was a beautiful, burly, bearded behemoth whose star burned bright, but burned out abruptly.
No matter what, we’ll always have this. Go explore the world, Pek.