Understandably skeptical when the Timberwolves began training camp two months ago, injured center Nikola Pekovic projected optimism Tuesday that he’ll once again become an everyday player.

He declared himself “not pain-free” but “way better than before” during an update with media members on his road back from April’s Achilles’ tendon surgery intended to resolve a troublesome ankle that has abbreviated his last four seasons.

Returned to running and playing one-on-one against teammate Ricky Rubio and others, Pekovic hopes to join his team for workouts within two weeks, presumably with his return to game action a couple of weeks after that. That’d be just about time to ring in the New Year.

Pekovic has been working with Arnie Kander, vice president of sports performance, daily on everything from boxing to swimming-pool workouts and expects to run harder in the coming days and weeks.

“Hopefully with this surgery I’ve solved all my problems,” said Pekovic, who is owed about $12 million a year for each of two seasons beyond this one. “What I had before, you can never tell if those things are going to come back or if you’re going to feel something different. You can never tell if you’re going to hurt again, but with this progress, I really feel I can come back and play like I used to play before.”

Remembering Kobe

Wolves star Kevin Garnett on Tuesday recalled the first time he met L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who on Sunday announced he will retire after this season. It was late in his 1995-96 rookie season in Philadelphia, where Bryant was a high-school senior and nationally acclaimed prep star.

“We played the Sixers in the Spectrum, some of you don’t know what that is,” Garnett told reporters, referring to the 76ers’ former home. “They tore the old Spectrum down. When he came in, you could tell he was exuberant and enthusiastic about being in this league. He has been nothing short of that. All of his great accomplishments stand for themselves. He has set his mark on the game.”


• Orlando’s Victor Oladipo fondly remembered the time he spent before the 2013 NBA draft with Wolves basketball boss Flip Saunders, who coveted the Indiana University guard that summer. “He was a great person, a great coach, a great judge of people,” Oladipo said.

• The Wolves wore new black warm-ups after they displayed gray “We” shooting shirts during November to remember Saunders.

• The Wolves have completed their season series with Eastern foes Miami, Atlanta and now Orlando. Ever the optimist, Magic coach Scott Skiles said, “It’s a little bit unusual you’re done with a team this early in the season, unless you meet in the NBA Finals.”

• Pekovic, when asked if he might follow up his boxing workouts with an MMA career someday: “I’ll be too old.”