PORTLAND – Timberwolves starting center Nikola Pekovic underwent surgery in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday that left coach Flip Saunders hopeful his richly paid big men will play again without pain.

Renowned foot surgeon Dr. Bob Anderson shaved bone from around Pekovic's right Achilles' tendon, detaching and then re-attaching the tendon in the process.

Anderson did not need to repair the tendon itself, Saunders said. That development left Saunders encouraged the operation will relieve recurring pain in Pekovic's ankle and heal that has limited him to 54 games last season and only 31 this season.

"Our people say it's better than they could have expected," Saunders said before his Timberwolves lost 116-91 at Portland on Wednesday night.

Pekovic's right foot will be immobilized for the next four to five weeks and Saunders estimated the rehabilitation process in total will take the next five or six months.

That would get him back on the court about the time training camp starts in October.

Pekovic is owed nearly $36 million for three more seasons beyond this one. He signed a five-year, $60 million contract in August 2013.

"We're not going to force things to get him back quicker," Saunders said. "We're going to make sure we take our time to get him back. Our doctors are pretty optimistic that this will really help him and alleviate a lot of pain and put him in a position where he'll be able to play for us. Our hope always has been to get him to that 20-25 minute range. We're not asking him to play 40. We'll have to wait and see where it goes."