Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic had his list of answers mentally prepared when he returned to action and the starting lineup Friday after six games away injured.
“No, no, let me figure,” he told reporters. “Yes, I will play tonight. No, I don’t know if they limit me to minutes or not. Yes, I still feel pain. What else?”
Pekovic played for the first time since March 16 because of a lingering condition that the team once called bursitis and now just lists as “sore.” He scored a game-high 26 points in 21-plus minutes as the Wolves blew out the Los Angeles Lakers 143-107.
When asked why Friday was the proper night for his return, Pekovic replied: “Why not? I still got some pain there, maybe a little less than before so I said I’ll just try to play until the end of the season.”
Pekovic said he or the team never considered shutting him down for the season.
“I never even think about it,” he said. “I always know I play some more games.”
Focused on the present
Wolves coach Rick Adelman sidestepped questions about his future beyond this season Friday after an ESPN.com report brought the subject up again and speculated he will walk away after this season.
“ESPN has a lot of experts, a lot of reports, a lot of channels, I don’t watch them all,” Adelman said. “I’m just concentrating on these games. I’m just trying to get these games. We’ll find out when that happens, but right now I’m just asking these guys to put the effort out every night and I think all of us have to do that. I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s as good as I got.”
Both Adelman and the Wolves have a two-week window after the season ends April 16 in which each side can opt out of the final year of Adelman’s contract for next season. It’s extremely likely one side, if not both, will do so.
A Los Angeles reporter tried to get Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to admit his team will have interest in Kevin Love, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become a restricted free agent in July 2015.
“I would rephrase that and say everybody wants a guy like that,” D’Antoni said. “When you’re talking about one of the best players in the league, yeah, makes sense.”
• A.J. Price was cleared to play for the first time since his March 9 appendectomy, but he remained on the inactive list, as did center Ronny Turiaf (knee bone bruise).
• Pau Gasol was back in Los Angeles with a case of vertigo and did not play.
• Rookie Gorgui Dieng returned to the bench with Pekovic’s return and nearly delivered a double-double again (14 points, nine rebounds) anyway in 22 minutes. He had five double-doubles in six starts while Pekovic was out.
• Wolves guard Ricky Rubio tied Ty Corbin’s single-season record for steals with his first of the night in the third quarter. The record is 175.