The Timberwolves will meet with Nikola Pekovic's representatives in the next week in an effort to reach a contrat agreement, team owner Glen Taylor said on an NBA TV interview during Thursday night's Vegas Summer League game.
I'm told no date has been set and when it happens, expect president of basketball operations Flip Saunders to travel alone to New York City to meet with agent Jeff Schwartz, who also reps Kevin Love and before that represented Al Jefferson in his 2007 contract negotiation with the Wolves.
The Wolves have made Pekovic an offer -- believed to be a four-year deal worth as much as $50 million -- and Taylor said Pekovic's camp made a counterproposal.
"My sense is, I think we both know he's going to be playing for our team next year," Taylor said. "I think we're just dealing with an element time of here. I would tell you I'm very positive that he'll play for our team. What we have left isn't something that can't be resolved. There doesn't seem to be a lot of pressure on us or him to get it done. A meet has been set up in the future.
"I'm confident it'll get done. I've been through so many of things. You say, `It's just money, Glen.' I think we'll get it done. He's an important part of our team. He wants to be back and we want him here."
Taylor made those comments during the Wolves' 83-75 loss to the D League Select team in the second round of Vegas tournament play. That loss took them out of title contention. They'll play their final Vegas game Friday against Portland.
You might ask, why has this Pekovic dance taken so long?
There are a number of factors at play here:
* The Wolves have the right to match any offer because Pekovic is a restricted free agent, so there's no time pressure on them to make a deal.
* Pekovic's camp has been waiting for an offer from another team that's so massive -- a $55 million-plus deal max deal or close to it -- that never came.
They've been waiting but one by one, teams -- Portland, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta -- all have made other cap-eating moves that have left them unable to create the kind of the $12 million starting salary needed to make an offer the Wolves potentially could gag on without matching. (They'd probably just match any offer anyway...)
The only team with that kind of money left is Milwaukee and the Bucks have Larry Sanders, are frontcourt heavy and almost certainly won't throw that kind of money at big Pek,
The only time pressure on Pek's camp is to get a deal done before he plays in the European championships in Slovenia in September. Training for his national team probably begins soon, so that's their biggest clock ticking.
* There's some agent-y, business stuff probably going on here, too.
The Wolves theoretically could offer Pek a five-year deal to give him extra security, but it doesn't sound like the concept has been discussed, probably for a couple reasons: Pek is prone to nagging injuries so the Wolves likely wouldn't want to commit an extra year, but this is also interesting: Schwartz, as I mentioned, also reps Love, who still is bitter about not getting the five-year "designated player" contract offer two winters ago.
How would Schwartz explain to Love that he couldn't get him a five-year deal while getting Pekovic one?
Tricky position for him to be in.
Schwartz also probably is feeling pressure to deliver big for his client for a couple reasons: Pekovic was expected to be a hot commodity on the free-agent market even though he is a restricted free agent but that big offer never come. Schwartz is in the same position with new client Brandon Jennings, who appears to be the biggest loser in this year's free agency.
Jennings left Bill Duffy (who reps Shabazz Muhammad among many, many others) for Schwartz last winter and Jennings was believed to be seeking $12 million a year. All the other big-name, big-money point guards have signed elsewhere now that Atlanta matched the Bucks' offer for Jeff Teague and Jennings still waits -- probably a grudging agreement for both sides to return to Milwaukee will be reached if they can't work out a preferred sign-and-trade deal elsewhere -- for his money, which almost certainly won't be $12 million a year.
Pekovic, too, won't get another offer, so why don't the Wolves hardball him at this point and offer, say, $9 million a year, you ask?
Because it's as much about fair market value compared to other NBA centers as anything.
And if San Antonio's Tiago Spiltter is worth $9 million a year and the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan is getting paid $11 million a year, what is Pek worth?
Certainly more than that.
If you say he has no other better options, you're right. But he can -- if negotiations got nasty -- opt to take the Wolves $6 million-plus qualifying offer for next season and walk away as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
That's a huge gamble, particularly given his injury history, and unlikely.
And Taylor said on NBA TV tonight, both sides know they need to reach a deal. The only question is that element of time.
Here's what likely will happen: The Wolves will sweeten the deal and allow Schwartz to save face by including some notable bonuses for games played, etc., that Pekovic likely will be hard pressed to reach.
If he does, then he's probably worth the extra money. If he doesn't, the deal can be billed as X amount even if he doesn't ultimately get paid the full amount.