Nikola Pekovic returned to Minnesota Thursday $60 million richer and his new big contract officially was announced at a Target Center press conference over the lunch hour.

He looked both nervous and fit wearing all black except for a silver accent tie and when asked by a questioner if he has lost weight this summer, he said, "280 (pounds), same as last season. Maybe it's the suit."

Here's a bit of what he said: 

"I feel comfortable here. I like it. People ask me where will you live. I don't want to go to bigger city. I just like it here. I like everything. I like the community. I know it's a little cold in the winter, you just get used to it."

On the protracted nature of negotiations: "When I finished the season, I had a meeting with my agents and they said, `Don't worry, leave everything to us, trust me, we just want the the best for you.' So that's what I did. He (agent Jeff Schwartz) said to me at one point, `If you're too nervous, we can close." I said really, no, I'm not nervous. I really was so relaxed. I just know (a deal would be reached). It's just a great thing."

He said Schwartz asked me how he felt after the deal was completed Wednesday morning.

"I said I still don't know," he said. "It's still a little unbelieveable. I came here three years ago and I was basically not even a backup center or nothing. I was fighting for my position. I know I was really fighting and pushing for this and I'm really happy that all this happened."

He said his mother, Vesna, cried when she learned negotiations were completed and her son was about to sign a five-year, $60 million guaranteed contract.

She and Pekovic's sister -- but not his father, Todor -- have been to Minnesota to visit.

"But they were here only in the summer," Pekovic said. "I hope they'll come to see me play in the next few years. They've got five years to come here."

He's returning home to Montenegro tomorrow and plans to stay there through the third week of September before he come back to MInnesota about 10 days before training camp starts.

He still will not play for Montenegro in the upcoming European championships.

Check later today for a complete story for Saturday's paper on today's presser.


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