Pekovic, Wolves agree to five-year, $60 million deal

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2013 - 6:00 AM
hide

Center Nikola Pekovic was the last of Flip Saunders’ summer free-agent signings for the Wolves.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Timberwolves concluded a summer of spending by reaching agreement Wednesday with restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic on a five-year, $60 million contract, one that includes as much as $8 million more in performance-based incentive clauses, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

Six weeks after negotiations formally started and six weeks before training camp begins, the Wolves re-signed a player whom new President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has maintained all along was his top summertime priority.

Pekovic, too, all last season said he wanted to return to the Wolves, who selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Wednesday morning, the two sides finally came together to keep the 27-year-old Pekovic with the Wolves through 2018, barring a trade of course. There are no player or team options in the contract.

“I don’t know anyone in my 18 years in the NBA who at All-Star break is going to stay in Minnesota — where it’s 20 below — and go ice fishing,” Saunders said Wednesday afternoon, referring to how Pekovic spent his midseason break last winter. “That tells you he loves not only Minnesota, but the experience on and off the floor.”

After spending $60 million to sign unrestricted free agents Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf to balance their roster during July, the Wolves saved their biggest payout for last with a contract that firmly keeps them over the NBA’s salary cap but under its punitive luxury tax.

Pekovic received as much as the four aforementioned players combined, even though no other NBA team extended him an offer sheet that the Wolves always indicated they would match regardless.

In the end, the team and agent Jeff Schwartz reached a deal with a compromise that keeps Pekovic’s annual salary at the $12 million the team previously had offered but includes a fifth and extra season and those incentive bonuses, which almost certainly will include one of games played for a punishing player prone to injuries during his first three NBA seasons.

Three stars set

Saunders tweeted the news Wednesday morning and Pekovic is scheduled to fly from Montenegro to Minnesota on Thursday for a Friday morning news conference.

Saunders contends his team now is set with three star players — Pekovic at center, two-time All-Star Kevin Love at power forward and precocious Ricky Rubio at point guard — he considers among the NBA’s best at their positions.

“This league has proven you have to have three quote-unquote ‘star’ players,” Saunders told reporters during a teleconference. “I really believe Ricky, Kevin and Pek all have the ability to be in the top five at their respective positions, and some a lot higher than that.”

The agreement does not prevent the Wolves from offering Rubio in 2015 a five-year, rookie-contract “designated player” extension that Love wanted so badly but didn’t get from Saunders’ predecessor, David Kahn. Pekovic’s five-year extension is classified differently than one Rubio might sign because Rubio was a first-round pick (in 2009) and Pekovic wasn’t.

The team still, in time, could give five-year contracts to all three. Saunders calls them his franchise’s complementary “cornerstone” players.

Pekovic’s contract, though, might have his agent doing some explaining.

Schwartz represents both Pekovic and Love, who into last season remained bitter about not getting a five-year extension with a four-year, $61 million-plus contract he signed in January 2012.

Saunders said he talked to Love about Pekovic’s contract situation as recently as Tuesday.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Saunders said. “More than anything, Kevin wants to win. As we talked about Pek, he just said, ‘You have to do what you have to do.’ I think Kevin really knows and believes I’m going to have a certain way I’ll do things. I don’t know what has been done in the past. I really don’t care.”

Asked if he thinks Pekovic’s five-year deal will be an issue with Love, Saunders said, “No, not at all.”

‘Bruise Brothers’

The Wolves now have committed more than $110 million to Love and Pekovic, whom together Saunders termed the team’s “Bruise Brothers” in a statement that announced Wednesday’s news. Pekovic’s brutish low-post scoring game creates space for Love’s three-point shooting range even if neither player is a defensive, rim-protecting shot blocker.

Saunders said he believes coach Rick Adelman’s underrated team-defense system and the physical nature of both players below the rim will compensate for their lack of shot blocking. He said he expects newly added first-round pick Gorgui Dieng and veteran Turiaf as well as NBA Development League alum Chris Johnson will help the team in that respect.

“When you look at Pek and Love, I don’t know if there are any two other guys in the league together who will average as many rebounds,” Saunders said. “They complement each other. Very rarely do you get an inside player like Pek who will draw fouls and an outside player like Kevin who can score from the perimeter. And then you throw Ricky into the equation …”

The Wolves spent $120 million on guaranteed contracts this summer.

“Anyone who had any questions about the commitment of [owner] Glen Taylor and this organization on trying to put forth a winning team that not only gets in the playoffs but can do some damage, I believe over the last seven weeks that has been answered,” Saunders said.

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Diego 21 FINAL
Denver 35
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Indiana 88 FINAL
Charlotte 79
Philadelphia 103 FINAL
Detroit 109
Dallas 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
NY Islanders 3 FINAL
Boston 2
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 4
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Chicago 2 FINAL
Nashville 3
Arizona 0 FINAL
Minnesota 2
Carolina 0 FINAL
Calgary 5
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Columbus 5 FINAL
San Jose 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Montreal 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local team are you currently most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close