After successfully spearheading the movement that propelled Kevin Love past Dwight Howard and into the fan-selected starting five for the Western Conference All-Star team at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans next month, the Minnesota Timberwolves turned their attention to promoting the merits of mauling Montenegrin center (and occasional baby) Nikola Pekovic to the NBA coaches who choose the players that make up the reserve rosters during the midseason exhibition. In search of just the right thing to grab coaches' attention and highlight the brand of physical, effective play that's made Pekovic one of the league's most punishing interior scorers this season, the smart folks in Minnesota's public relations office relied on a tried-and-true nickname, a little inspiration from Chicago and the creativity that brought us NUMB#RS cologne to come up with ...
A full-on "Bruise Brothers" vinyl LP, featuring Love and Pekovic reimagined as Jake and Elwood Blues. Wonderful.
Break it down, Mark Remme of Wolves.com:
Kevin Love will be in New Orleans for the 2014 All-Star Game on Feb. 16—he was voted into the starting lineup by the fans this week. Pek at the very least deserves consideration to join him. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders sent packages to the 29 coaches around the league this week trying to emphasize that point. He sent a vinyl album titled “The Bruise Brothers” out, featuring songs created to reflect the strong play by both Pekovic and Love inside over the first half of the season.
Tell me more, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:
The album cover features an artist's rendering of Pekovic and Love dressed as the famed Blues Brothers and labeled "All-Star Edition." Some of the songs on Pekovic's side of the album include "It was only a Pek" and "I'm Still Learning English." One track is written in Serbian and loosely translated to read "Meat Is the Best."
The package sent to coaches also includes a poster with many of Pekovic's accomplishments — he leads the league in second-chance points and points in the paint — and touts he and Love as one of the NBA's "best duets." It also includes a letter from Wolves President Flip Saunders.
A letter, you say? What does Flip's missive say, Sean Highkin of FTW?
With chart-topping hits such as “30/15 Vision”, “It Happened At Shootaround”, “Be My Screen”, “Endless Love”, and “Should I Three or Should I Post”, Wolves forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic are fast-becoming the best male chart-topping duo since the likes of England Dan and John Ford Coley, Seals and Crofts, and Hall and Oates.
Ok, so, all kidding aside, it is nearly difficult to ignore what kind of season each of these two big men are compiling here in Minnesota. The two have combined to have more 20/10 games, more double-doubles, and more second-chance points than any other duo in the NBA this season.
The fans of the NBA have already spoken and voted Kevin Love into the game as a starter. What is happening without much fanfare, though, is the emergence of Nikola Pekovic as one of the top centers in the NBA. Under the former all-star voting format, it would be hard to ignore Pekovic as one of the Western Conference reserves at center. He LEADS THE LEAGUE in second-chance scoring and points in the paint. Over his last 25 games, he is averaging 20.7 points per game, which ranks second among centers in the NBA.
If you truly want the best players in the Western Conference represented in New Orleans, I hope you’ll consider voting for Nikola Pekovic.
(Saunders also signed the letter as "Bruise Brothers All-Star Edition Executive Producer," which — as someone who once called himself "experienced rock and roll tour manager" on a resume after driving my brother and his guitar around the country for three weeks — is a level of job-title invention I can respect.)
The attention to detail extends beyond the artwork and packaging. As Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press notes, one of the tracks on Love's side of the LP (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which makes sense, via Beach Boys) is listed with a running time of 45:19, corresponding to the 45 points and 19 rebounds he hung on the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 22. Similarly, the Pek tune “I’m Still Learning English” lasts for 34:14; in that same game against the Clips, Pekovic poured in 34 points and pulled down 14 boards. Deep cuts, Wolves. Deep cuts.
The Brothers themselves weren't involved in the campaigning — which I guess means they didn't stuff the posters in the record sleeves like any self-respecting DIY artist would — but they do seem to dig the way the promotion turned out, according to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"I didn’t even know they were doing it until a couple days ago, so it was pretty funny. A good idea," Love said.
Said Pek: "Flip brings it to us, and he promised me some extra copies, so I can bring them back home."
I'm sure Pekovic's family will dig the souvenirs — which reportedly have actual music on them — but I'm not so sure the 28-year-old center will wind up joining his frontcourt pal in the Big Easy.
There are seven bench slots for the Western Conference All-Star team — two set aside for backcourt players, three reserved for frontcourt players, and two "wild card" selections that coaches can use to take either a backcourt player or a frontcourt player. Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, whom many (including LaMarcus) thought should have been part of the starting five, is a lock for one of the frontcourt reserve slots; Howard of the Houston Rockets, whom Love passed in the fan vote to earn a starting nod, will likely receive a reserve spot, too.
That leaves one frontcourt reserve slot, with a host of bigs arguably more deserving than Pek (Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan) still in the mix; the likelihood of Pek landing a wild card spot gets even smaller when you introduce the multiple deserving guards (Goran Dragic, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Tony Parker, Ty Lawson, Monta Ellis) who could find themselves drummed out of the running for a reserve backcourt bid. This is the kind of thing that happens when you have more players playing brilliant basketball than there are available places at the annual All-Star festivities, I'm afraid.
Plus, Pek's chances took a major hit Tuesday, when the Wolves announced that the center has bursitis in his right ankle and will miss the next seven to 10 days of action. That's a tough loss for the just-reached-.500 Wolves, who face stern tests from the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder over the next week, along with two matchups against noted ruckus-bringer Davis and his New Orleans Pelicans. (It gets worse if the injury doesn't resolve itself within 10 days — Minny's final three pre-All-Star affairs come against Aldridge's Blazers, Howard's Rockets and the Denver Nuggets, one of the teams the Wolves are battling against to rise up into the top eight in the Western Conference playoff chase.) It also means Pekovic will lose between six and nine chances to wow opposing coaches and draw additional support, which hurts when you're looking to separate yourself from such a thickly settled pack.
All that makes for a bad news Tuesday for Minnesota and its big, bad center. At least he's got the right kind of soundtrack to lean into the bummer. Crank up the hi-fi, Nikola, and get well soon.
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