Cleared to participate in contact practices, Timberwolves injured center Nikola Pekovic now just needs some of that before he plays his first game since last March.

Given a schedule in which the Wolves play three games within four days, the question is when?

Pekovic’s presence would give interim head coach Sam Mitchell insurance for nights like Monday, when Wolves centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng each got into third-quarter foul trouble.

“It’d be nice, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” Mitchell said. “When he comes back, how many minutes can we realistically give Pek? How many minutes do we leave him out there? We don’t have a team that’s built so we can give unproductive minutes. Pek is going to have to do his work. We’re working with him. But without practice time, it’s going to be tough for him.

“When he’s ready, we’ll figure out how to use him then. But right now, I don’t even think about it. It does me no good to start planning on something that I have no idea when it’s going to happen.”

Pekovic is in the middle of a five-year, $60 million contract and has been sidelined much of the past three seasons because of a troublesome ankle that required Achilles-tendon surgery in April.’

Remember Rudy

The Jazz played without four projected starters, including injured swat-blocking center Rudy Gobert. That meant young Wolves star Andrew Wiggins didn’t have a chance to reprise his fierce dunk over Gobert in a game at Target Center last season, a piece of dunkitude Wiggins still sees on TV from time to time.

“That’s definitely one of the best highlights of my NBA career so far,” Wiggins said. “It’s always good to play against someone like that, who challenges you at the rim. It keeps things competitive and fun.”


• Wolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns spent part of Tuesday posing in costume and with a handsome cat as part of soon-to-be launched social-media campaign to promote him for the All-Star Game. Included is one bit at aimed at the massive Chinese fan base.

Zach LaVine on stepping out of bounds at a critical moment in Monday’s loss at San Antonio while referring to Towns: “I got a size 12 foot. Lucky I don’t have KAT’s foot or I’d been standing in the third row.”

• Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad briefly wore a Jazz hat in 2013, when he was part of a draft-night trade with Utah involving Dieng and Trey Burke. “My brother still has that hat,” he said.

• A former Duke player and coach, Utah coach Quin Snyder has followed Wolves rookie Tyus Jones’ career. “Those guys were a unique group,” Snyder said, referring to NCAA champions Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. “There was a level of character and poise and he’s one of those guys. That’s who he is. … I was proud to go to his school.”