MINNEAPOLIS – As the Portland Trail Blazers get set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night at the Target Center, Trail Blazer fans might want to take a closer look at Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic who will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
The Trail Blazers priority this offseason looks to be a starting center and based on the available free agent pool, Pekovic along with Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Andris Biedrins are sure to be attractive options for them.
There have been rumors floating around since last season that the Trail Blazers might have interest in the third-year center and Pekovic has heard those same rumors and considers it a compliment.
“That's really nice when you hear that other teams like Portland really want to bring you in,” Pekovic told CSNNW.com. “That means that I'm doing a good job and they like what I'm doing. That's something nice.”
If you're not familiar with Pekovic's game, depending on what basketball era you were brought up in, you might find it refreshing to see a big man that doesn't stray away from the paint.
At 6-11, 290 pounds, Pekovic would be the perfect frontcourt mate to two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and rising stud Nicolas Batum. Pekovic says “If people are talking about me playing along side players like that, that's really nice to hear.”
His game might not be the prettiest to look at, but it sure is effective.
“It's not really nice for watching,” Pekovic said about his game. “I'm just being real. My game is kind of different, maybe a little old school. That's how I have played my entire life. I'm not somebody that's going to jump three, four feet in the air and catch all these lobs like these guys are doing, but I can create some damage with my back to the basket when I receive the ball.”
Pekovic, 27, has improved his numbers in each of his first three seasons. Right now, he's averaging 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and shooting 51 percent from the field in 37 games.
“I'm really happy that everybody is talking about [my game] because after my first year, I could have never imagined people talking about me like this,” he said.
The Trail Blazers will have anywhere from $11.8 - $13.1 million in cap space this summer depending on a few variables and luring a quality big is a top priority. The Timberwolves are expected to match any offer sheet signed by Pekovic and he is aware of that. Yet still, he's not 100 percent certain things will play out that way.
“You never know. My first option is to stay here.” Pekovic said. “That's something that's really hard for me because there are people around me that are asking, 'What's going to happen this summer?'” Pekovic said. “This summer is going to be big for me. That's why I'm not really thinking about it and I'm just trying to focus on basketball.”
The Timberwolves have all the leverage in this case, but that doesn't mean the Trail Blazers won't try to go after him and make things more difficult for the Timberwolves. Remember the Batum fiasco?
We're six months away from finding out. In the meantime, check out what Aldridge thinks about him.
“Pek is nice,” Aldridge said. “He's definitely someone who has improved over the years and he keeps on getting better. He's one of the best centers in the league.”
– Tonight's game marks the third meeting between these two teams. The Trail Blazers are 2-0 having defeated the T-Wolves 103-95 Nov. 23 at the Rose Garden and 102-97 Jan. 5 in Minnesota.
– The Trail Blazers (24-23) have won four of its last six games.
– The Timberwolves (18-26) have lost 11 of its last 13 games.
– The Trail Blazers are one game behind the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference standings. The T-Wolves are four and a half games back of the Trail Blazers.
– Tonight's game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet at 5 p.m. and on 1190 AM/102.3 FM KEX radio.