Nikola Pekovic

Timberwolves Remain In Mix For Jimmy Butler

The Timberwolves and Bulls have been engaged throughout the day on a potential Jimmy Butler trade, Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania reported on The Vertical’s live show tonight. According to Wojnarowski, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are among the players that have been discussed in those talks, along with draft picks.

While any executives around the league believe the most likely scenario involves Butler staying in Chicago, those execs believe that if the All-NBA forward goes anywhere tonight, it will be Minnesota, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (Twitter link).

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders passes along an interesting note on the Timberwolves, tweeting that the NBA has confirmed Nikola Pekovic‘s 2016/17 salary is no longer on the club’s cap. That means that Minnesota has about $24MM in cap room tonight, which could be very convenient when it comes to getting a trade done — the team wouldn’t necessarily have to match salaries for incoming players.

The Celtics, Suns, Nuggets, and Cavaliers have also been linked to Butler this week, though Boston isn’t currently believed to be in the mix.

Timberwolves Waive Nikola Pekovic

10:22pm: The Wolves will receive cap relief for Pekovic’s remaining salary, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirms (Twitter link).

4:12pm: The Nikola Pekovic era in Minnesota is over, with the Timberwolves formally announcing today that they’ve waived the veteran center (Twitter link).

Pekovic had a couple very productive seasons for the Timberwolves in 2012/13 and ’13/14, averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG in 116 games during that stretch. However, he has long been plagued by injuries, having never appeared in more than 65 games in a season. In 2015/16, Pekovic played in just 12 games before being shut down. He hasn’t appeared in an NBA contest since then due to ankle and Achilles issues.

“For two years I have struggled with this injury,” Pekovic said back in December. “I have been mentally exhausted. This year I went to Minneapolis for two months and I did everything possible to return to the court, but there are times when you simply can’t. I can’t run without pain.”

While the Wolves’ announcement on Pekovic didn’t mention the team’s cap situation, it’s believed that medical retirement is the next step for him. A determination on Pekovic’s health must be made by a doctor who is jointly approved by the NBA and the players’ union, as was the case for Chris Bosh in Miami.

Assuming that independent doctor indeed rules Pekovic medically unfit to continue playing, Minnesota would immediately be able to eliminate his cap charges for the rest of his contract. The Wolves are currently on the hook for $11.6MM in 2017/18 for Pekovic, so medical retirement would create an extra chunk of cap room for the team.

Timberwolves Facing Decision On Nikola Pekovic

Nikola Pekovic last appeared in an NBA game on January 31, 2016, which means that as of today, the Timberwolves are eligible to move forward with removing the veteran center from their books. In the event that a player like Pekovic – or fellow big man Chris Bosh – is deemed medically unfit to continue his basketball career, his team has the opportunity to take his salary off its cap, one year after his last game.

There are a few aspects to take into account as the Wolves consider their next move with Pekovic. For one, the determination on Pekovic’s health must be made by a doctor who is jointly approved by the NBA and the players’ union, so the team’s own doctor won’t be able to make that judgment.

If that independent doctor indeed rules Pekovic medically unfit to continue playing, Minnesota would immediately be able to eliminate his cap charges for the rest of his contract. The Wolves are currently on the hook for $12.1MM this season for Pekovic, and $11.6MM in 2017/18. The team would still have to pay that money, and it would continue to count toward the salary floor, but it would free up cap room, creating some spending flexibility for the franchise.

Before the Wolves move forward on this front, however, they’ll have to consider Pekovic’s stance. In Miami, Bosh has said he’ll do everything he can to return the court, despite blood clot concerns — if the Heat were to wipe his cap hits from their books and he’s eventually medically cleared and plays 25 games for another club, those salary charges would go back onto Miami’s cap, potentially creating major problems.

In Pekovic’s case, things look a little simpler. The big man is only under contract for one more year beyond 2016/17, and his cap hit isn’t as substantial as Bosh’s, so the financial risk of the move wouldn’t be as great for Minnesota. Additionally, Pekovic himself has acknowledged that his career may be over due to ankle and Achilles issues that have plagued him in recent years.

“For two years I have struggled with this injury,” Pekovic said last month. “I have been mentally exhausted. This year I went to Minneapolis for two months and I did everything possible to return to the court, but there are times when you simply can’t. I can’t run without pain.”

The Wolves are currently almost $13MM below the 2016/17 cap, so it’s not as if they need the extra space this season. But if Pekovic is prepared to accept medical retirement, it’s probably in the best interest of both sides to go down that road — he would still get paid, while Minnesota would gain significant financial flexibility for the coming summer. We should find out soon whether that’s the plan for the Wolves.

Injuries May Lead To Retirement For Nikola Pekovic

Veteran Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic has been ruled out for the season, and now has admitted that retirement may be in the cards for him. Pekovic, who will turn 31 next week, acknowledged during a press conference in Serbia that his health issues could make it impossible for him to return to the court, according to a Mondo.rs report (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).

“For two years I have struggled with this injury,” Pekovic said of his troublesome ankle and Achilles. “I have been mentally exhausted. This year I went to Minneapolis for two months and I did everything possible to return to the court, but there are times when you simply can’t. I can’t run without pain.”

Pekovic had a couple very productive seasons for the Timberwolves in 2012/13 and 2013/14, averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG in 116 games during that stretch. However, he has long been plagued by injuries, having never appeared in more than 65 games in a season. Last year, Pekovic played just 12 times before being shut down, and before training camp this year, Wolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed that the veteran big man wouldn’t play for the team in 2016/17, though he remains on the 15-man roster.

The Wolves are currently on the hook for $12.1MM this season for Pekovic, and $11.6MM in 2017/18. However, the situation is somewhat similar to Chris Bosh‘s in Miami. As of January 31, if Pekovic is ruled medically ineligible to play by a doctor jointly approved by the NBA and NBPA, the team could get salary cap relief for his contract. Pekovic would still earn the remaining salary on his contract, but Minnesota would be able to wipe the deal from its books for cap purposes.

For now, there’s no rush for either side to make a final decision, but as January 31 nears, we’ll likely get a better idea of what the plan is for Pekovic and the Wolves.

Nikola Pekovic Won’t Play For Wolves This Season

SEPTEMBER 25th: Pekovic is out for the season, the Timberwolves confirmed today (Twitter link). The official statement adds, “A determination about future seasons will be made at a later date.” Minnesota cannot apply for a Disabled Player Exception because it is under the salary cap, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.

SEPTEMBER 23rd: Appearing on WCCO Radio this afternoon, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor indicated that Nikola Pekovic won’t play for the team this year, and may be bought out (Twitter link). The veteran center continues to battle ankle and Achilles issues, and wasn’t expected to be cleared to participate in training camp.

Pekovic, 30, had a couple very productive seasons for the Timberwolves in 2012/13 and 2013/14, averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG in 116 games during that stretch. However, he has long been plagued by injuries, having never appeared in more than 65 games in a season. Last year, Pekovic played just 12 times before being shut down.

The Wolves are on the hook for $12.1MM this season for Pekovic, and $11.6MM in 2017/18. If Pekovic is ruled medically ineligible to play by a doctor jointly approved by the NBA and NBPA, the team could get salary cap relief for his contract as of January 31. Based on Taylor’s comments though, a buyout is also a possibility. Buying out Pekovic wouldn’t create as much cap flexibility for Minnesota, but it would free up a roster spot sooner, and the team would be able to stretch out his 2017/18 cap hit, limiting the impact.

With buyouts apparently possible for both Pekovic and Kevin Garnett, the Wolves could create two openings on their projected 15-man roster. That would be a silver lining for players on non-guaranteed deals hoping to crack the regular-season squad, including Rasual Butler, John Lucas III, and Toure’ Murry.

Wolves Notes: Garnett, Pekovic, Extensions, Butler

With training camp set to get underway on Tuesday, the Timberwolves still don’t have a definitive answer on whether or not Kevin Garnett will be back for one more season. As Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune details, Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau said owner Glen Taylor will be involved in that decision.

“Glen and Kevin and his representatives are in discussions,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll keep that private for now, and we’ll see how it unfolds. But, obviously, what Kevin has meant to our league, the organization, he’s earned the right to have those discussions with Glen.”

While the Wolves wait to see whether Garnett will play out his contract or call it a career, let’s round up a few more items out of Minnesota, via Youngblood…

  • Veteran center Nikola Pekovic, who continues to recover from an Achilles issue, is not expected to be ready for training camp, says Thibodeau. “We wanted to get him here, try to give him an opportunity get in shape and get treatment,” Thibodeau said. “We were hopeful he would respond well. There have been some good days, but there have been a lot of setbacks as well. It’s something we’ll monitor going forward.” The Wolves head coach didn’t sound like he’s expecting much from Pekovic going forward, tweets Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune.
  • According to Thibodeau, Minnesota hasn’t talked much to Gorgui Dieng or Shabazz Muhammad about possible rookie-scale contract extensions. However, that could happen before the October 31 deadline, writes Youngblood.
  • The Wolves brought in free agent swingman Rasual Butler “for a couple days,” according to Thibodeau, who says the team will “make a final decision in the next day or so” on whether to add the veteran to its camp roster.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Ford, Pekovic, Nuggets

After initially agreeing to terms with undrafted free agent Quincy Ford in June, the Jazz finally made the deal official this week, and according to Aaron Falk and Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, Ford’s three-year pact includes a modest guarantee of $75K. Despite the guaranteed money though, the Northeastern alum is a long shot for a roster spot.

As Jones writes, the Jazz already have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, and Jeff Withey is the favorite to earn the final opening on the 15-man roster. That means Ford will likely be ticketed for Utah’s D-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, to open the season.

Here’s more from out of the Northwest division:

  • In a recent episode of The Scoop podcast (hat tip to Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk), Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 Twin Cities notes that Nikola Pekovic worked out in front of Timberwolves personnel last week, but is “still not ready physically.” Pekovic, who continues to recover from an Achilles issue, has been plagued by health problems in recent years, significantly reducing his role in Minnesota and making him a potential release candidatae.
  • With Joffrey Lauvergne no longer in the mix, the Nuggets will likely have one open spot on their 15-man roster, so Adam Mares of DenverStiffs.com conducts a Q&A with D-League expert Chris Reichert to discuss the six prospects vying for that opening. Former Bucks and Pelicans guard Nate Wolters would be Reichert’s pick for the 15th spot on Denver’s roster.
  • Alex Roig of DailyThunder.com proposes three possible trades for the Thunder that could push the team back into contention in the Western Conference. While Roig’s ideas are probably long shots, with Paul George and Jimmy Butler among the suggested targets, it’s worth keeping in mind that Oklahoma City has a crowded frontcourt and an extra guaranteed salary, making Enes Kanter an intriguing trade chip.

Western Notes: Chalmers, Pekovic, Janning

Wolves big man Nikola Pekovic‘s surgically repaired right Achilles tendon continues to bother him, and he’s frustrated as a result while he plays his way back into shape, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes. “I’m still not pain-free. I’m still feeling pain,” Pekovic told Zgoda. “It’s kind of a little of everything. I’m just learning to play with pain again. That’s the biggest adjustment. And, of course, when you don’t play for 10 months, what do you expect? Come back in two games? It’s not possible.

We appreciate the fact that Pek’s dealing with something I can only imagine,” interim coach Sam Mitchell said regarding the center’s struggles. “He’s doing the best he can to play through it, play as much as he can and get his game back to as close as it was. If he can do that, it’d be a minor miracle and it’d help us out. We just take it day-by-day and whatever Pek can give us, we have to be appreciative of that.

Here’s the latest from out West:

  • The Grizzlies will have a difficult time extracting value out of Jeff Green and his expiring contract if they decide to deal him prior to the trade deadline, Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports opines in his deadline primer for Memphis. The team should hold onto point guard Mario Chalmers, who has solidified the position off the bench, and would likely come to regret parting ways with him down the stretch considering the lack of quality backup guards available around the league, Marks adds.
  • Nuggets camp cut Matt Janning has signed with the Russian club Lokomotiv Cuban, the team announced (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). International journalist David Pick notes (on Twitter) that Janning’s deal includes an option for 2016/17, though it is unclear if it is a team or player option.
  • Kobe Bryant acknowledges that the Lakers‘ struggles this season have changed his approach and perspective, in this, his final year in the league, writes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. “It’s just us not being as competitive as we used to be has changed my role substantially,” Bryant said, “to be more of a teacher, more of a coach, to a person who understands more and has more patience in dealing with the young guys. It’s much, much different in that aspect.

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Wolves, Nuggets

Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell reiterated his belief that he is developing players the right way after the Wolves ended their nine-game losing streak Sunday, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune relays. Mitchell said that he is not frustrated with the Wolves’ struggles because he feels development is more important than wins at this point and added he hopes Wolves owner Glen Taylor understands that commitment.

“It’s bigger than me,” Mitchell said. “It may turn out that I’m here to see it. But it may turn out that I’m not. But the people in this league know there is a certain way we have to do this, and we understand that. And If I’m not a big boy enough to do it, I shouldn’t be standing here talking to you.’’

Here’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves center Nikola Pekovic is exhibiting some rust after returning from the surgery he underwent back in April to repair damage to his Achilles tendon, but that is to be expected, according to Mitchell, Andy Greder of The Pioneer Press relays. After [five] games and we don’t get to practice because we play every other day, you ask me has Pek scraped off the rust? He is limited to 18 minutes a game, and I’m the person that’s prickly. Did that answer your question?,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think in 18 minutes in [five] games he’s going to scrape it off.”
  • Jazz rookie Trey Lyles has earned more playing time because of a vastly improved 3-point shot, Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune details.
  • Small forward Will Barton, who re-signed with the Nuggets this past summer on a three-year, $10.6MM deal after originally having joined the team via the Arron Afflalo trade, has come out of nowhere to contend for this year’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes.

Northwest Notes: Kaman, Martin, Thunder

Trail Blazers reserve center Chris Kaman believes it’s a “high possibility” he will be moved before the trade deadline, he revealed to Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Kaman told Quick that as part of the Blazers’ decision to pick up his $5MM option over the summer, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey made it clear he would be traded if the right deal came along. Kaman has only played in four games.

In other developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Kevin Martin could be rejoining the rotation soon and center Nikola Pekovic could return to action on Wednesday, Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell told Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Martin has not played the past seven games, in part because he has a wrist injury but mainly because the club wanted to audition Zach LaVine at shooting guard. But Mitchell told Youngblood that he may play more of his veterans in upcoming games. Pekovic is looking to make his season debut after undergoing Achilles surgery in April and is “50-50” to play on Wednesday, Mitchell said.
  • Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay will come off the bench in the short term when he returns to action, Nuggets coach Michael Malone told Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. Mudiay, who has missed the last 11 games with a right ankle injury, could be back in action on Wednesday but will be under a minutes restriction, Dempsey adds. “Right now, my gut feeling is to work him in, bring him in off the bench, let him get his feel back after missing as many games as he has,” Malone said. “That will also allow him to play against more second-line guys, get a little more comfortable, get his confidence back — not that he’s lost confidence. But just to feel good out there. Then, if he’s able to take his starting job back, then we’ll put him back in the lineup.”
  • The Thunder allowed the $915,243 trade exception they acquired in last year’s three-team trade with the Knicks and Cavaliers to expire today, the one-year anniversary of the deal. The exception was a vestige of the team’s minimum-salary contract with Lance Thomas, who went to New York in the swap.