PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes the simplest gestures mean the most, and so it was Sunday night in Philadelphia when the Timberwolves team bus diverted on its way from airport to hotel so Nikola Pekovic could climb the same museum steps the fictional Rocky once did, on Pekovic’s 30th birthday.
“Probably the best gift for me,” the big guy said, almost sentimentally.
Pekovic grew up in Montenegro watching American movies with his father, who’s a film buff.
“Westerns, all these ‘Rocky’ movies, everything,” said Pekovic, who also practiced Sunday for the first time in nearly 10 months. “That’s what I watched as a kid. I liked them and I liked boxing.”
Wolves president of sports performance Arnie Kander organized the side trip when he asked Pekovic what he wanted for his birthday and he said he wanted nothing. Instead, Pekovic got a moment with his teammates after night had fallen, as well as a chance to snap photographs and raise his fists in triumph at the top, just like Rocky did.
“Of course,” Pekovic said. “You’ve got to do it.”
Towns wins again
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns won his second consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month award. He’s following Andrew Wiggins, who won it each of the first four months last season on his way to the Rookie of the Year. New York’s Kristaps Porzingis won in the East.
“You want your guys to have individual success when it comes,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. “Then at some point you hope that transfers over to team success. Anytime you’re a young guy who earns something like that, it’s a good thing and to Karl’s credit, he’s earned it.’’
K-Mart remains idle
Wolves veteran guard Kevin Martin sat out his seventh consecutive game while his shooting wrist has healed and while Mitchell plays and evaluates young players. Martin has not played since a Dec. 21 game at Boston.
When asked before the game if he can bring back Martin to his playing rotations without having lost him, Mitchell said, “Absolutely. We may even roll him out tonight. If K-Mart tells me his wrist is feeling better, then we’ll play him.”
Martin didn’t look like a man expecting to play. Asked how his wrist is, he again called it his “problem child.”
• Following the Wolves’ lead with veterans, the 76ers signed 36-year-old Elton Brand for his locker-room presence on a young team that badly needs one.
“It’s important,” Mitchell said. “There are just some things young players don’t know and who’s going to lead them?”