MINNEAPOLIS — It’s been a month since the Timberwolves extended a qualifying offer to Nikola Pekovic.
It’s been 17 days since they presented Pekovic’s camp an actual, feasible extension (the qualifying offer was merely a formality).
And 15 days ago, Minnesota’s mammoth Montenegrin entered open restricted free-agent season, free to sign any offer sheet from a team in search of an able-bodied center that can score (16.3 points per game last year), rebound (8.8) and slide over to provide effective help defense.
While most other big-name free agents have signed or re-signed, all is quiet on the Pekovic front — or the eastern one, geographically speaking, as Pekovic’s agent Jeff Schwartz operates out of New York. No deal has been reached, but no outside offers have come, either.
President of basketball operations Flip Saunders hasn’t broached the topic deeply. Schwartz won’t return calls or emails. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has been the only recent voice on the Pekovic project, telling both the Twin Cities’ major newspapers he believes a deal will get done, perhaps next week when Saunders and Schwartz get together in the Big Apple.
Why such confidence amid the silence? Because as of now, and even moving forward, Pekovic doesn’t really have any better options.
If a team in need were to jump in late and sign him to an offer sheet, Minnesota has three days and all the money Taylor is willing to fork over to match it. The Timberwolves have Larry Bird rights to him, allowing them to breach the salary cap ceiling in order to retain him.
If Pekovic really isn’t satisfied enough in Minneapolis to go ahead and sign a long-term extension, he could play next year for the $6 million qualifying offer then test the unrestricted free-agent market. But that’s quite a risk for a guy who stands to make between $10 million and $12 million the next four years.
Not to suggest that he’s not happy here — he hasn’t spoken publicly since the offseason, but all accounts say he is — but the big man is pretty much pigeonholed in Minnesota. That’s likely the reason none of the league’s other 29 general managers wish to attain the cap hold that would come with signing Pekovic to an offer sheet.
So what’s the holdup, exactly?
In all likelihood, there are probably several, little, internal obstacles keeping Minnesota’s final big 2013 offseason deal from getting done. Final dollar amounts, incentives, player and team options and the like all must be discussed.
Pekovic had hoped to test the market and see what other teams were willing to pay for him, in an effort to drive up his monetary value in Minnesota. With that door closed at the moment, he and his agent wish to take every measure available to provide him the most lucrative contract possible.
The Timberwolves, conversely, want to retain their starting center without overpaying him. Achieving harmony between those two objectives takes time — almost a month, so far.
For that reason, while keeping Pekovic remains vital, there is still no reason to panic. Technically, the sides have until the end of September when training camp starts to create an accord.
But pretty much every stakeholder involved would rather not wait that long. It’s for that reason Saunders is boarding a plane for New York next week.
So as of July 25 — about three months before the start of the NBA season — the Pekovic question appears a matter of when, not if.