Nikola Pekovic turned 29 on Saturday. There was some rehab to be done on his chronically painful right ankle. And, he had to make sure the Navy blue sports coat that has become his official Timberwolves uniform was tidy for game night vs. Utah at Target Center.
Presumably, Pekovic also took time over New Year's weekend to confirm that his semi-monthly, gross payment of $1,008,333.33 had been deposited by his employer, Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball LP.
Pekovic played in the first nine games of this season and now has missed 23 in a row. He played in 10 of the final 38 games of the 2013-14 season. That means he has been available for 19 of the Wolves' past 70 games.
The semi-monthly payments will continue at $1,008,333.33, November through April until 2017, and then the amount falls to $966,666.67 for the 2017-18 season.
There was a six-week period in the summer of 2013 — from July 3 through Aug. 14 — when the Wolves came up with a hat trick of questionable contracts: first, Chase Budinger received $16 million for three years, then Kevin Martin $28 million for four years, and finally Pek got his $60 million for five.
Flip Saunders had been on the job as president of basketball for a few weeks when this largesse occurred. He had a veteran coach, Rick Adelman, with an interest only in the present, and a star player, Kevin Love, that Flip was trying to woo by reaching the playoffs.
By December, Love was leaking the information that he wanted out. A month later, Pek was hobbled, the playoffs were a non-issue and Adelman was disengaged.
Today, Saunders is coaching what will be the fifth Wolves team not to win 20 games. Pekovic's contract will remain a major obstacle for 3½ more seasons. Martin (injured lately) has minimal trade value at $7 million a year. Budinger is a non-factor. And Flip's young bunch is going to gain no feel for what's required to play the actual NBA game until Ricky Rubio returns.
Six weeks in the summer of 2013. Pekovic, Martin, Budinger. What a disaster (especially Pek).