SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - Timberwolves center Brad Miller said farewell Monday night to the fans and the city where he played nearly six NBA seasons, unexpectedly starting at center in an appearance that was both sentimental and functional.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman decided to start Miller after promising he would play --"whether he likes it or not" -- at least some against a Kings team that starts DeMarcus Cousins at center.
Adelman coached Miller for three seasons and turned to him to start the game in his final visit at the place they used to call Arco Arena. Miller plans to retire this summer due to his age (35) and two surgeries in recent years on his worn out knees.
Miller also started in what became a 116-108 Sacramento victory because Adelman wasn't sure how much he could use Nikola Pekovic Monday. Pekovic declared himself not 100 percent healthy but still prepared to play after he missed nearly two weeks because of ailing knees.
Miller played in the frontcourt with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber on those Kings teams that contended in the West and took the Wolves to seven games in a 2004 Western Conference second-round series.
"This is a place that has meant a lot to me, basketball-wise and personally," said Miller, who still owns a home in Sacramento and plans to live there when he retires. "My daughter starts school next year. She was born out here. We've made a good life with some good friends out here."
Miller scored 11 points -- including three threes -- in his first eight minutes on the floor before Pekovic subbed in for him with the Wolves leading 24-19 late in the first quarter. Miller didn't score again, but those 11 points were one more than he had scored the entire season coming into the game.
Adelman used the occasion of Miller's last playing visit to Sacramento to remember when.
"We had so many great teams then, back when we first got him," Adelman said. "I was really fortunate because I had Vlade, I had Webber and I had him. That's three really good post players who could all the pass the ball. That makes your offense run a lot better. And back then when he was young, he could really shoot the ball, almost to the point where if he wouldn't shoot it, you'd get upset."
Pekovic is back
Pekovic played for the first time since he played 11 minutes at Golden State on March 19, finishing with 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting. He declared himself ready even though he said his legs and lungs were hurting after running for the first time before Sunday's game at Portland.
"I know I need some more conditioning," said Pekovic, who had been riding the exercise bike and elliptical training while he rested bone spurs on his right ankle. "Last night was tough. I hope today will be best. Running was the hardest thing. I get tired quick. I just need a couple days to get back to the old shape."
• While the Wolves got Pekovic back for limited minutes Monday, they continued to play without injured J.J. Barea (thigh contusion), Michael Beasley (sprained big toe) and Darko Milicic (hamstring). The Kings played without forward John Salmons (sore hip) and lost guard Marcus Thornton for the game in the first quarter because of a strained calf.
• Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas, the final player taken in last summer's draft, was named the Western Conference's rookie of the month for the second time this season.
• The NBA on Monday named its East and West rookies, players and coaches of the week, but will wait until Wednesday night on NBA TV to announce its players of the month. You'd think Kevin Love will be named best in the West after leading the NBA in scoring during the month with a 30.7 average, wouldn't you?