“He doesn’t do this anymore because I think his body is changing,” Sato said, impersonating Vesely’s impersonation.
Now Pekovic himself impersonates a baby, a bear and a beauty queen in the weight room without hearing so much as a snicker from a teammate.
“I think he enjoys the baby ones better because then he gets to make the noises,” Love said. “He’s a big baby. A big teddy bear, too, though.”
Light on his feet
Sato calls Pekovic “one of the most nimble guys I’ve ever seen” after watching him progress through a program that shares a bit in common with yoga.
“No, I never done yoga,” Pekovic said. “Or 80 percent of the stuff we’re doing, I’ve never done in my life.”
So, might he have been a dancer?
“No, even my mom tried to take me to dance when I was like 14,” Pekovic said. “She was like, ‘We have to start,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no.’ I’m kind of a little big for that. I don’t know how that would look.”
But his footwork on the beam is almost graceful, even if he and teammates such as rookie Gorgui Dieng drip sweat from seemingly the simplest of movements while Sato demonstrates the exercises seeking “reflexive stability” with nary a drop of perspiration.
“Their muscle is not working the way it’s supposed to,’ ’’said Sato, whom Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders hired after they worked together in Washington. “The little ones function very efficiently so you don’t feel fatigued. That’s why I can do this all day because I don’t have to use a big muscle to do it. If the only choice is to use big muscles … big muscles are strong but they fatigue quick.
“That’s why you see those guys sweating profusely. You’d be surprised: It looks like a simple exercise, but if you make sure they are in the right position, many of them struggle.”
Pekovic credits Sato’s work with keeping him healthy, which has kept him on the floor and allowed him to deliver in the past six weeks what coach Rick Adelman calls the most productive stretch of his four-year NBA career. He scored a career-high 34 points in a game last month, has nine 20-point and 10-rebound games and has led his team in scoring in five of the past 10 games.
“His consistency where he just keeps playing has been terrific,” Adelman said.
If Pekovic plays 60 games, he’ll start receiving a bonus that increases based on how many games he plays.
Pekovic gives his trainer the credit for his good health, but have they made a deal to give Sato his cut should Pekovic reach those bonuses?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don’t know about that,” he said, laughing. “We didn’t make that deal.”