Slow start frustrating Wolves big man Nikola Pekovic
NOV 07, 2013 4:50p ET
Oh, he's been irked, alright. Hard not to be when rebounds keep bouncing off his gargantuan hands and shots made with apparent ease a year ago are clanging off the back iron.
But frustration is tantamount to fuel in the Minnesota center's world. The Timberwolves have experienced plenty of it during their past two outings following a 3-0 start.
They might as well use it, Pekovic said.
"Of course, you're gonna be frustrated," Pekovic told reporters Thursday. "When you stop being frustrated, when you stop thinking about that, that's the point when you realize that you don't care. I think when you're frustrated, until some point, I think that's good for a player."
Through five games, the 6-foot-11, 285-pound giant hasn't resembled the one that asserted himself as one of the NBA's best offensive centers last season and earned a maximum-length contract extension as a result. Pekovic is shooting 38.9 percent from the floor -- he's yet to shoot less than 50 percent in a full season -- and has almost as many turnovers (13) as offensive rebounds (15). He ranked 13th in the league last year in offensive boards.
Last year, Pekovic became injury-rocked Minnesota's clear-cut, No. 1 offensive option. The touches and opportunities are fewer and further between this time around, so there's more of an impetus to make the most of them.
It'll come, Pekovic has said since the beginning of training camp.
"It's normal, because we don't play together for so long," said Pekovic, who looked particularly lackadaisical in a 10-point, seven-rebound effort Wednesday against Golden State. "It will come all together. It will be fine. The first three games, everything looked great. But then when you lose, you start seeing why didn't we do this, why didn't this happen.
"I know that everybody is doing everything in their power to make my life easier and I'm doing everything to make their life easier."
That was Adelman's focus when asked about his Montenegrin big man's early season struggles. Pekovic must slow things down a bit, but his lower production level is a reflection of outstanding, team-wide issues.
A lengthy film session Thursday brought them to plain light, Adelman said.
"What is this play?" Adelman said he asked his team several times during the video review, "'because I don't recognize it.
"I told them we were in the first week of training camp in that game, watching the stuff that we did. It's uncalled for. You can get beat, but you don't have to hand it to them."
The two outstanding headaches: offensive ball movement and defensive rotation. The past two outings featured a dearth of both.
Adelman didn't earn his reputation as an offensive genius by employing overload and isolation schemes; Timberwolves players are expected to cut without the ball -- sometimes to generate their own looks at the basket, others to open something up for a teammate -- and whoever has it is supposed to find them.
Neither didn't happen enough Wednesday or Monday in a loss at Cleveland.
"I don't think we have any selfish players, but we're playing selfish right now," Adelman said. "It's not so much you don't pass the ball, it's you don't make the right cuts, you don't get the right spots. We're short-cutting a lot of stuff offensively."
The same could be said on defense. The second-man assistance that bottled up Kevin Durant and kept Carmelo Anthony quiet last weekend was nowhere to be found Wednesday, especially in the fourth quarter as Klay Thompson found a hot hand from 3-point range and allowed the Warriors to run away.
Adelman even switched to a zone at one point to alleviate pressure on J.J. Barea, who was charged with guarding Thompson, but to no avail.
"Sometimes you have good nights, sometimes you have bad night," Pekovic said. "Sometimes on bad nights, you need to push more, play better defense."
The absences of center Ronny Turiaf (elbow fracture) and wing Chase Budinger (meniscus surgery) loom large at the moment. They leave Gorgui Dieng and Alexey Shved as the only realistic backups for Pekovic and Martin, respectively, and neither sub has been effective.
Dieng's still adjusting to professional hoops and learning how to avoid foul trouble. The Louisville product has at least three fouls in each of his three games played so far.
Shved appears to be in an even more dire mental state, frequently driving or chucking up off-balanced jumpers rather than patiently waiting for opportunities.
"We're trying to think we're going to bulldoze everybody and just get there," Adelman said when asked about Shved. "You can't play that way. And it's hard, especially for guys off the bench, because they want to make something happen so they can get more minutes. But it's a fine line."
Heading into that 7 p.m. tip, the Timberwolves' first 3-0 start in more than a decade feels like it took place a long time ago.
That's not all bad, Pekovic said.
"Sometimes, maybe, it's not good to have three wins at the beginning," Pekovic said. "You relax. I mean, it's good, but sometimes when you losing games -- maybe like yesterday's kind of loss -- for us, they show us that we are not undefeated, we still have a lot to learn, a lot to play, a lot to go through."
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