MILWAUKEE – Newly signed Miroslav Raduljica made his Timberwolves debut Friday night, stepping into a big-man void left by the continued absence of Nikola Pekovic and Wednesday’s waiving of undersized Jeff Adrien.
His arrival gives the Wolves another big, bearded European center who even Mo Williams seemed to mistake for Pekovic on Thursday.
Raduljica said Williams apologized for not introducing himself after walking by in the training room because he thought he was walking past Pekovic, who has been friends with his new teammate for years.
“Maybe I’ll shave my beard just so I won’t be mixed up with Pek,” Raduljica said.
Pekovic doesn’t see why there’d be any confusion.
“I’m prettier,” he said.
The Wolves signed Raduljica to a 10-day contract Thursday to ensure an ankle he sprained early in the season while playing in China is fine. If all goes well, he is expected to sign for the rest of the season. Raduljica’s Chinese team bought out his contract just before Christmas.
“Protection, for one,” coach Flip Saunders said when why he signed Raduljica. “We see Gorgui down, rolling around [in pain during games], and we’re thinking if we lose him we don’t have any player taller than 6-7 on the roster. We needed more size, even with Pek coming back whenever he comes back.”
Saunders said Raduljica’s presence beyond his current 10-day contract would allow the Wolves to experiment more with Dieng at power forward once Pekovic returns.
As for Pekovic, told he should shave to differentiate himself from Raduljica, he replied, “I don’t think so.”
The Wolves returned rookie Zach LaVine to the starting lineup Friday because Williams’ sprained ankle was too stiff and sore for him to play. With Corey Brewer now traded away, they converted shooting guard Troy Daniels into their backup point guard. There’s a chance Williams could play Saturday against San Antonio, Saunders said.
Pekovic and guard Kevin Martin continued contact work Friday and Saunders suggested one or the other might be ready to play by next weekend after more practice.
Saunders said there’s a chance the team will send Pekovic to the Development League for a game or two before he returns to NBA action.
Friends in high places
Saunders said the friendship between Pekovic and Raduljica was one contributing factor in his decision to sign the 27-year-old center.
“I think it helps both of them,” Saunders said. “Pek can explain to Miroslav some things we’re trying to do. From Pek’s standpoint, there’s no question it helps having somebody you know, a friend you can go out to dinner with and keep a positive attitude with.”
• The Wolves will seek to send rookie Glenn Robinson III to the D League, perhaps as early as Sunday or Monday. They share the Fort Wayne, Ind., team with 12 other NBA teams and would like to place him with another team where he’d be guaranteed more playing time. Robinson has sparingly appeared in 16 of 35 games.
• The Bucks waived second-year guard Nate Wolters — St. Cloud’s own — to clear roster space and signed veteran Kenyon Martin, a former teammate of Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd. Saunders likes Wolters, but the Wolves don’t have an open roster space to claim Wolters off waivers. They would have to waive a player and pay off his contract or trade a player to make room.
• The Wolves didn’t hold a morning shootaround Friday, partly because they had played an 8:30 p.m. game Wednesday and partly because Saunders said he thinks his young players retain information better if they’re given the evening’s game plans at 4 p.m. rather than noon.