Nikola Pekovic probably misses the Timberwolves' personal touch (Getty Images)
There’s an athletic, 6-11 NBA center with double-double potential that won’t turn 28 until midway through 2013-14. He averaged 16.3 points and nearly nine rebounds a game in 31 minutes a contest last year, and if you have the money, you could actually sign the guy. A center that can walk and chew gum and drop 18.6 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes while only turning the ball over two times during that term!
If you’re the Minnesota Timberwolves, you could sign starting center Nikola Pekovic to a pretty hefty deal to pay him through his prime, and cash in on the player you’ve helped develop over the last three seasons as he pairs with All-Star Kevin Love as one of the NBA’s most fearsome inside-outside duos. One of the rare potential All-Star center and power forward pairings, fashioned with two players with obvious chemistry, and prevailing potential. You could make his restricted free agency a thing of the past.
Or, you could just ignore the guy, as Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor appears to be doing right now. From Charley Walters at the Minnesota Star-Tribune:
“ […] the Wolves owner doesn't feel it will take a personal call to get free agent Nikola Pekovic to re-sign.
"I can and I would, but at this point of time, I've not been asked to nor am I inclined to just because I think I know where the contract negotiations are," Taylor said Wednesday. "And it's not at a critical stage or anything like that."
And this is exactly what the Wolves should be doing right now.
If Pekovic’s past is any indication, he’ll be worth every bit of the four-year, $50 million deal he’s after. Centers that can walk and chew gum (much less contribute 18 and 10 per 36 minutes) are such a rare commodity that you don’t mind paying them more than, say, your typical All-Star level small forward.
As a restricted free agent, though, Minnesota is in no rush to commit to terms while bidding against themselves. No team really has the ability to step up and offer Pekovic a competitive deal at this point (Charlotte weirdly went after Al Jefferson, Philadelphia’s rookie cap holds and the presence of Nerlens Noel would get in the way), and the Wolves just have no real reason for committing to a deal with Nikola that nobody is offering outside of just wanting to make a person and player they really like happy with his lot in life.
That may not preclude Minnesota from eventually stepping up, though, even if the market is not pressing them to. From Walters’ interview:
"I think Pek and I have that type of relationship," Taylor said. "Before he left (after the season), he and I actually had a conversation that if we saw that the negotiations were getting off target, we would call each other and talk."
There’s no guarantee that this will all be forgotten. Players like Roy Hibbert were able to handle the restricted free agent waiting period, work with other teams to establish a going rate, and return to the incumbent team with no hard feelings. For two years now Pekovic has surely been informed by his representatives and the Timberwolves personally that this sort of inaction was bound to happen, sort of the norm for second-tiered RFAs, and it isn’t as if Pek isn’t going to be paid handsomely through his prime.
It still has to be a little annoying, for both the player in question, and Timberwolves fans. Even if, again, Minnesota is going about this absolutely the right way.
Every million counts. Not just because these things are, y’know, millions of dollars; but because these cap savings and shavings help so much for myriad reasons down the line. Just ask a team like the Chicago Bulls, stuck just over the luxury tax threshold last season after bidding against themselves to pay Kirk Hinrich more than they would have had to in a sign and trade deal. Or teams like Golden State and Houston, squads that had to frantically move player after player in order to fit high end free agents under the salary cap earlier this month.
We hope no feelings are hurt, and both sides get what they want. It’s always nice to see millionaires stay happy!
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