As Wolves center Nikola Pekovic (right) has become a scoring and rebounding force inside, he'll be working on his passing game as he faces more double-teams.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune


Pekovic's next test is hitting the open man

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • February 19, 2012 - 11:18 PM

So what will be the next stage in Nikola Pekovic's development?

Here's a guess: his passing game. Pekovic has double-doubles in seven of 11 February games, and posted 17 points and nine rebounds in Sunday's 92-91 victory over the 76ers.

As a result, both Pekovic and Timberwolves coaches expect to see teams adjusting on defense to what they see on tape.

"I think they're going to come at us more in the low post, whether it's doubling or digging at him," coach Rick Adelman said. "We'll find out what they can do to kick it out. We've talked about that. I would anticipate teams are going to surround him more, and not going let him put the ball on the floor. Kevin [Love] either. They'll make them pass the ball out."

Teams can't look at what Pekovic has done and not react. But that begs the question: How good a passer is he?

"We'll see," Adelman said. "It depends where they're going to come [from] and how they are going to come."

Pekovic said he grew used to double-teams while playing in Europe, so he will be prepared. "I will have to adjust when I see something like that," he said.

Orlando opportunity?

As the Wolves continue their campaign to get Pekovic into the Rising Stars game over All-Star weekend, the big guy's best chance at a late berth in the game might rest on the health of Spurs forward Tiago Splitter.

Splitter injured his right calf Saturday in the Spurs' victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles. If Splitter, who was selected to the game featuring first- and second-year players, can't play, Pekovic would appear to be a leading candidate to replace him.

State secret

Rookie Derrick Williams continues to prepare for the All-Star weekend dunk competition, but he's not talking much about his preparation.

Williams said he's getting a lot of input for dunk possibilities from friends, family and teammates. "Every day," he said. "We have three dunks. I have two down that I want to do, I'm waiting on one more."

But Williams isn't about to let on what those two dunks are, wanting to keep the element of surprise. He practiced -- and pulled off -- an off-the-backboard, between-the-legs dunk after practice last week. But even then he didn't say that would necessarily be a part of his repertoire.

His strategy for getting out of the first round? "You have to start strong, but you don't want to do your best," Williams said. "But you want one that will get you through to the next round. So I'll probably do one of my best ones first."

Williams has been lobbying Ricky Rubio to help him in the contest. Rubio said he will.

Flight to fatherhood

Guard J.J. Barea had to do some traveling to be there for the birth of his son, Sebastian, Friday afternoon. Barea was already in Houston with the Wolves when he received word that the birth was coming.

His girlfriend called him at 2:30 a.m. and again at 7 Friday morning. Barea boarded a plane back to the Twin Cities, getting to the hospital at 2:30 p.m. Sebastian was born at 4.

"He's healthy, she's healthy, it's awesome -- 7 pounds," he said.


• Some rookie hazing: Veteran Brad Miller had children's backpacks given to Rubio (a purple one with Justin Bieber's picture), Williams (a pink princess theme) and Malcolm Lee (pink Hello Kitty). The rooks are to take them on the road, at least through the All-Star break.

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