If you take the word of Flip Saunders, the president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, you can quit worrying about the club signing Nikola Pekovic. Saunders believes it’s just a matter of time before the 6-11 center from Montenegro agrees to a deal with the club.

“Yeah, I’m still optimistic,” said Saunders, who plans to travel in the near future to New York to speak to Pekovic’s agent.

If you want to select the most important announcement one of the local four pro sports organizations needs to make right now, I would vote for the signing of Pekovic. I am convinced that if he returns, the Wolves will be great entertainment this season.

“Right now we’re going through maybe an education process [with] Pek and his people of where we’re at with our organization and his importance to us and where we feel we’re at with what our offer is and why we’ve offered him what we’ve offered,” Saunders said. “There’s nothing that has been adversarial, it’s more of an education situation right now, and I’m optimistic that we’ll sign him. Right now we’re in a situation where he’s a restricted free agent and so he can go out and get an offer sheet from anybody and get a contract, but we have the ability to match any offer that he can get.

“So we are pretty much in a good situation, and I do believe that Glen [Taylor, Wolves owner] and our organization, that we’ve presented a very fair, more than fair offer to Pek and we’ll just see where it goes and how soon it gets taken care of.”

Saunders also said he remains optimistic that Rick Adelman is ready to return as coach next season.

“I think he feels very good about where we’re going,” he said. “Feels very good about what we’ve done to improve the team. We’re moving forward to try to change some things to keep our players healthier over the course of the season. We’re being very proactive in doing that. I think he feels, as we feel, that if we can keep our team healthy and with the pieces we’ve added, we have a chance to do something special.”

Linebacker depth at U

Jerry Kill recently talked about how his Gophers football team has a number of athletically gifted players at linebacker. Now they just need to hone their skills.

“The good thing is I’ll tell you that probably our strongest leader on our defensive side of the football, and has done a great job with our players this summer, is in our linebacking crew,” Kill said. “[Redshirt senior] Aaron Hill has done a great job. We expect great things. I think Aaron is going to have a tremendous year and we’re excited about him.

“[Senior] James Manuel is a young man who played a lot of minutes for us last year. He is bigger, stronger and faster, has had a great summer and a very good spring. I think athletically he’s definitely what we’re looking for. Then inside with [redshirt freshman] Jack Lynn and [junior] Damien Wilson and [redshirt sophomore] Jephte Matilus, there’s some depth there inside. I thought Damien and Jack Lynn were neck-and-neck in the spring, thought they both did some good things.

“From the outside standpoint with [Chris] Wipson coming in, De’Niro Laster coming in, [Dominic] Schultz, who was here during the spring and did a good job, Nick Rallis had a good spring. I think we may have more depth than we think. We just have to get out there and, number one, stay healthy at that position.

“Athletic-wise, [redshirt sophomore] De’Vondre Campbell is another one. I think De’Vondre is [6-5, 225]. We’ll look the part. We just need to be able to play it.”

3M players in majors

Hollis Cavner, who puts on the great 3M Championship running Friday through Sunday at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, talked about how exciting it is when players from the Champions Tour have solid showings at major tournaments. At the British Open this year, Minnesota native Tom Lehman made the cut and shot an opening-round 68, which had him among the early leaders.

“It was fun to see that our group was maintaining their own and playing good golf,” Cavner said. “With [Mark] Calcavecchia and all those guys getting to go play the British and Tom and everybody playing over there, it’s always fun to see how our guys compare. Every once in a while one of us, as you know, runs up to the top of the leaderboard and stays there. … Our guys can still play on the regular tour on an occasional basis and still do well.”

Birk speaks to Vikings

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had former Vikings center Matt Birk talk to the team on the opening day of training camp in Mankato.

Frazier was asked what the biggest takeaway was from Birk’s speech.

“The work that’s involved with them coming together as a football team, you really stress that point with some of the ups and downs they had a year ago in Baltimore [before winning the Super Bowl]. But their team stuck together, especially late in the season when they made the coaching change on offense. That part of it — being able to stay together as a team through some of the highs and lows of an NFL season and then seizing the moment.”


• Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll reported that former Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin’s hip surgery went well. “We don’t have any dates or timeline,” said Carroll about Harvin’s return. “But we’ll be optimistic and hope he’ll get back as soon as possible and be ready to go eventually.”

• The French basketball team BC Orches announced they have signed former Gophers guard Vincent Grier, who will join the team immediately.

• One of the reasons the Twins might have demoted Aaron Hicks was that he struggled when batting with a runner on third and less than two outs. In those situations this year, Hicks has had 16 plate appearances and has driven in only four runs — on three sacrifices and only one hit — for a .083 batting average.

• Miami Hurricanes football coach Al Golden spoke to the press this week about the upcoming season and, surprisingly, former Cretin-Derham Hall star Seantrel Henderson isn’t listed as the favorite for the starting right tackle position. Golden has the senior listed alongside sophomore Ereck Flowers and freshman Sunny Odogwu on his depth chart.


Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com