Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic averaged 15.6 points and eight boards per game in seven contests during the first two weeks of March before re-exiting the lineup due to a right ankle injury.
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MINNEAPOLIS — When asked why he’ll be back in the lineup Friday of all nights after being continually plagued by a nagging ankle injury, Nikola Pekovic shot back with a short, salty, two-word response.
"Why not?" the Timberwolves center mused.
It’s been an aggravating second half of the season for the big man from Montenegro, whom his franchise promoted as a potential All-Star at one point. Bursitis in his right ankle kept him out the entire of month of February, and lingering soreness cost him six more games from March 16-26.
"It’s been really frustrating," Pekovic said. "Just trying to . . . keep my head straight first of all, it’s kind of really tough for me. You know, whatever you do, (the pain) is still there. The doctor said it’s kind of bad luck."
But Pekovic will make his second return Friday night against the Lakers. He hopes this one can prove permanent.
Coach Rick Adelman isn’t sure how much he’ll be able to use his 6-foot-11, 285-pound center. Team trainers originally had Pekovic under a minutes restriction of 20 per game, but Adelman largely ignored it.
Pekovic’s availability will depend on his conditioning and how sore his ankle becomes. It was too enflamed before Minnesota’s past six games for him to be able to play.
"I think his conditioning and the way he runs will dictate that," Adelman said. "He only practiced a short while, yesterday, so it’s hard to tell what he’s gonna do. But I think that’ll be the tell-tale sign; we’ll see how he’s moving."
In Pekovic’s latest stead, rookie Gorgui Dieng filled in and recorded a double-double in five of six starts. According to both Pekovic and Adelman, there was never any talk of giving Dieng the starting nod once Pekovic was healthy, nor did the team or player discuss shutting him down for the year to ensure a full recovery.
Pekovic averaged 15.6 points and eight boards per game in seven contests during the first two weeks of March before re-exiting the lineup. At the time of his original injury, he ranked second among NBA centers with 18 points per game and led the league in second-chance points and points in the paint.
Signed to a five-year, $60 million extension this past offseason, Pekovic has missed at least 17 games in each of his four NBA seasons.
Here for now: Adelman seemed genuinely surprised Friday when asked about an ESPN.com story suggesting he may skip town once the Timberwolves’ season ends.
"I don’t even know what report that is," the coach said in reference to Marc Stein’s article citing "sources close to the situation" claiming Adelman planned to opt out of the final year of his contract. "Really, I have no idea. ESPN has a lot of reports out there — a lot of experts, a lot of reports, a lot of channels. I don’t watch them all."
According to Stein, Adelman "has convinced more than a few folks in team circles that he’s going to invoke his right to opt out of the final year of his original four-year contract and step away for good this summer." That very well may be, as Adelman’s about to conclude his 23rd year as a head coach and has spent the past two seasons balancing work with caring for his wife, Mary Kay, who suffers from a seizure disorder.
But it’s not solely up to Adelman whether he stays or goes. Once the season ends, he and the Timberwolves have a two-week period in which either side may opt out.
But Adelman says he’s just focused on Minnesota’s final 12 games.
"I’m just involved in this season and asking these guys to put the effort out every night," Adelman said. "I think all of us have to do that."