If an exhibition game of NBA 2K14 is anything to judge by, the Timberwolves shouldn’t have any problem handling Moscow CSKA tonight at the Target Center. After one false start (ProTip: European teams’ visiting jerseys are white, so if you’re playing against an NBA team, you need to make them both wear home colors to tell them apart) I put the new-look Wolves through their paces against visiting CSKA. Continue Reading…
Archives For Nikola Pekovic
The title of this post is a lie. I haven’t stopped worrying, nor have I learned to love preseason rankings. But I guess I grudgingly understand why they’re there. Because following basketball closely — and I don’t mean your favorite team, but the whole thing — through its annual cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is a lot like breaking up with a serious girlfriend every year. Like a five-year relationship compressed and injected into nine months.
It all begins with such promise in November and you don’t really know what’s going on or where it’s going but you just want to enjoy it. So you try to relax into it, thinking how all you’ve got is time. But then it starts getting serious. You stop taking it as it comes and start wondering where it’s going. And then, just like that, it’s over. This is June. Continue Reading…
Media got let into the gym with about 15-20 minutes left in a scrimmage between the A Team (no Mr. T) and the B Team. As I sat down, someone who was already in the gym leaned over to me and said, “By the way, that score is not a scoreboard malfunction.”
The B Team was wiping the floor with the A Team. They were up 20 points on them. By the time the clock on the scrimmage had run out, the final score was the B Team winning by 12 but even some late execution by the A Team wasn’t nearly enough to erase a deficit. There’s some good and some bad in the “other players” pushing the “main players” so much. It’s good to see adversity, no matter how irrelevant it might be a couple weeks from now, for the main unit of guys who should be dominating these scrimmage based on talent. To see how they respond in Day 3 of training camp will be very interesting.
“Well, I think all of our young guys are playing really hard,” Rick Adelman said after practice on Wednesday. “They just kicked the tails of our nine guys who are going to play a lot. They got killed in the first quarter against our young guys because they played their tails off.”
Guys like Lorenzo Brown, Dante Cunningham, Othyus Jeffers, Chris Johnson, and Shabazz Muhammad were scrambling all over the court, swiping down in the post, and causing the kind of havoc you’d hope from a second unit. They were catching the Wolves’ top guys off guard with offensive rebounding, lob plays, and just executing the basics on both ends of the floor. You saw the usual frustration out of guys like Kevin Love and J.J. Barea, who took a couple of chances to plead to the referees that they needed to call certain things.
Thursday, the Wolves’ starters will have a chance to take it out on the young guys. Here’s a look at a couple of notes I took while watching the scrimmage moments I got to see: Continue Reading…
Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were sporting the white side of the practice jerseys against a team of J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, Derrick Williams, and Dante Cunningham.
As media availability for the first practice of training camp began, the likely starting lineup for the Wolves to begin the regular season was actually losing to a second unit by a few points. With Jack Sikma reminding Nikola Pekovic that he was going to have to leave the key some time on offense to avoid a violation, the starting Wolves set up their offense. There was some motion across the lane and Pek found himself defended on the block by Cunningham. Because of his strength and size advantages, Pek had deep post position as he received the post-entry pass from Brewer. Immediately, Williams dropped down from the wing to double up on Pek.
Pekovic absorbed the double-team’s attention, kicked it right back out to Brewer, who was waiting on the left win above the break, and the Wolves had a spot-up 3-point attempt rip through the net. This was the first bit of training camp action that I got to see from the Wolves and it nearly knocked me deeper into my seat. Healthy players. Kick-out passes to shooters that resulted in points. This seemed like a pretty cool way to kill some time in Mankato Tuesday afternoon. Continue Reading…
With a couple days until the Minnesota Timberwolves kick off their 2013 Media Day and officially get going on starting the new season, we’re still finding things to pass the time. Some people may be doing it with Grand Theft Auto V or even by reading my Rabbit Hole posts on CBSSports.com (shameless plug!). Some people are wrapped up in the NFL season and the close of the baseball season. And some of us are ranking players on various platforms.
ESPN.com is pumping out the NBARank project right now with more than 100 bloggers, writers, and media pundits giving each player a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Then those scores are averaged out for each player and that’s how we get their rank. There are 500 players ranked each season and it gives an interesting look into how the collective can come to certain conclusions about every player around the league. It doesn’t make the rankings definitive by any means but it certainly gives you a good idea of how the basketball coverage community views the players.
NBARank is past the halfway point in the rankings, so I thought it might be a good idea to check out which Wolves players fell from 190-500. Again, these rankings are not definitive and you’ll find that some players just don’t get paid attention to by the collective, leading to a ranking that is often too low for some guys. But this will kill some time so let’s check out some of the Wolves players. Continue Reading…
On the surface, the question that is the headline of this post may seem preposterous to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ricky Rubio is one of the best facilitators in the NBA and someone that can turn any offensive weapon into an offensive weapon with an ability to score efficiently. Team him up with Kevin Love and you’ll get a deadly pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll game. You’ll get post-entry passes on point that don’t require Love to give up precious post position. Team him up with Nikola Pekovic and you have one of the better pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA, despite Pekovic not exactly being a threat to drop the hammer down with an alley-oop dunk on the play. And again, the post-entry passes are so choice.
Run one of those fancy pick-and-rolls with Rubio as the initiator while having Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin in the corners and the defense respecting Kevin Love’s ability to stretch the floor and the bulldozer rumbling down the lane that is Nikola Pekovic and it seems like the possibilities for points are endless. Even when you throw some of the bench guys in the game with Rubio and we know Derrick Williams scores better at the rim with Rubio on the court, Dante Cunningham is a great pick-and-pop option in the midrange, and the Corey Brewer-Ricky Rubio fast breaks could be quick and deadly. There’s a lot to love with these combinations.
So what’s with the question in the headline? Continue Reading…
The Wolves have come to an agreement with restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic on a five-year deal worth a reported $60 million.
After a long and seemingly uneventful negotiating process in which the Wolves initially waited for the market to be set by an outside suitor with an offer sheet, they finally set the market themselves by offering a reported four-year, $50 million deal which Jeff Schwartz, Pek’s agent, apparently said was no good. He secured a longer contract for his client while taking less on a per season scale with the hopes that the incentives included in the deal will push Pek’s earnings beyond the $12.5 million from the Wolves reported initial offer. It’s a gamble, but it’s also a smart one. We’ll get into that in a bit.
I think most of us are glad the Wolves retained Pek because the alternative didn’t seem great. There wasn’t much of a Plan B in terms of what to do if Pek left because I don’t really believe that was ever going to happen. They couldn’t be forced into a sign-and-trade. They couldn’t lose him if they didn’t want to. Even Pek keeping the qualifying offer and playing out next season meant the Wolves still had him and his Bird rights. It was just a matter of how much and how long.
There are concerns about the length of the deal and what it means for the Wolves moving forward. Let’s get into the things said by Flip Saunders yesterday and the realities of the deal itself. Continue Reading…
“We envision Pek and Kevin Love being the ‘Bruise Brothers’ and forming one of the best front courts in the NBA for a long time to come.” —Flip Saunders
The conversation around Nikola Pekovic’s contract negotiations has been robust around here. That is a great thing. That said, I want to make a point about Big Pek’s production over the past two seasons and what effect playing with good players has/will have on that production.
It should first be noted that Pekovic is not a great defensive rebounder. This is a little strange to me since he is so incredibly strong; one would think that he would be able to hold perfect rebounding position on every shot. This is probably one area in which his lack of length and leaping ability really hamper his production. And as many people have pointed out, his defensive rebounding numbers were a bit lower when he played alongside Love two seasons ago. This makes sense because defensive rebounding is a zero sum game; if, like Love, you grab every single defensive board out there, there are going to be fewer to go around for your teammates. But Pekovic’s offensive rebounding numbers were actually higher two seasons ago. As a matter of fact, he was second in the league in offensive rebounding rate that year. The fact that teams pay Love so much attention on the offensive glass means that Pek has more space to grab boards of his own. So I think you can expect his offensive rebounding numbers to go up playing with Love this season.
And, for what its worth, his usage rate was only slightly lower last season than two years ago, when Love was gobbling up offensive possessions like he was Bernard King. Of course, the Wolves did not have a volume perimeter scorer like Kevin Martin that year. But, if you ask me, the Rubio-Pek pick-and-roll is so effective and plays so well to both players’ strengths, that I don’t think you’ll see them stray too far from it. What’s more, that pick-and-roll should be much more effective with shooters around to space the floor. Remember how clogged the lane became whenever Rubio would prepare to drive last season? That problem should be cleared up. Though his volume will probably drop, I think you’ll see Pekovic score more efficiently this season.
All of that said, what commenter Mac and others are saying is true: Pekovic’s agent truly has almost no leverage in this negotiation. Accepting the qualifying offer means sacrificing at least $6 million during Pek’s prime earning years. That’s money that, depending on his production and health, Pekovic may never recoup, even after he becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.