The Timberwolves waived injured center Nikola Pekovic on Tuesday, ending their association with the last player remaining from the Kevin McHale era long ago.
Sidelined because of foot pain almost since he signed a five-year, $60 million contract in August 2013, Pekovic played only 12 games the past two seasons and hasn’t played since January 2016.
A block of brutish strength when he was healthy, Pekovic played 97 games since he signed that rich contract as a restricted free agent.
By waiving Pekovic two days before Thursday’s draft and 11 days before the NBA’s free agency period begins, the Wolves will get salary cap relief for a player who is owed $11.6 million for the final year of that contract next season.
McHale, then the Wolves’ vice president of basketball operations, drafted Pekovic with the first pick of the second round in the 2008 draft. McHale’s successor, David Kahn, signed him to leave European ball for the NBA in summer 2010 and Kahn’s successor, Flip Saunders, signed Pekovic to that $60 million deal.
“It’s still a little unbelievable,” Pekovic said that day he signed. “I came here three years ago and I was basically not even a backup center or nothing. I know I was really fighting and pushing for this and I’m really happy that all this happened.”
A 6-11 center, he played 271 NBA games for the Wolves, averaging 12.6 points on 51.8 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds. He never missed fewer than 17 games in any of his six seasons, but averaged 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds during his best year in 2013-14.
Fond of wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt over his bulging muscles, Pekovic was once asked what kind of tree he would be if he could. Without missing a beat, he replied, “I don’t want to be a tree. Can I be a carrot?”