Pekovic's $60 million contract includes incentives for games played
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It's a done deal.
Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders confirmed Wednesday the team has finalized a deal with center Nikola Pekovic. A source told 1500ESPN.com and KSTP-TV reporter Darren Wolfson the deal is worth $60 million over five years with up to $8 million in potential incentives.
The Wolves initially offered Pekovic a four-year deal worth around $50 million earlier this summer, but the offer sat on the table for a month. One of the main incentives, according to league sources, is games played.
Both sides can claim victory on this deal. The Wolves didn't want to go higher than $12 million per year, but they also wanted to keep the contract to four years. Pekovic's camp wound up squeezing out a fifth year.
In three seasons with the Wolves, Pekovic, 27, is averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, but he has missed at least 17 games in every season.
"Retaining Pek was our No. 1 priority this offseason and we're very excited that he's chosen to continue his career in Minnesota," Saunders said in a statement. "Thanks to a lot of hard work and determination, Pek has developed into one of the NBA's premier centers and is entering the prime of his career. We envision Pek and Kevin Love being the 'Bruise Brothers' and forming one of the best front courts in the NBA for a long time to come."
With the high financial commitment made to Pekovic, Saunders and the Wolves are banking heavily on Pekovic to stay established as part of the three-man core of the team alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
"This league has proven that you need three "star players," Saunders said Wednesday on a conference call. "When I say that, I'm saying three players at their respective positions that are going to be considered in the top-5 in the league. I really believe that Ricky, Kevin and Pek, all three of those guys have the ability to be in the top-5 at their respective positions"
As had thought might end up being the case, Saunders said Pekovic would not be playing for Montenegro in the upcoming EuroBasket championships, citing the need for Pekovic to spend the entirety of training camp with the Wolves and to do whatever he can to avoid injury.
Saunders reiterated, as he has numerous times leading up to the final agreement, that he never doubted that Pekovic would re-sign after the Wolves established a strong initial offer when the free agent window opened.
"We came out very aggressive July 1 in going after Pek," Saunders said. "I believe that how aggressive we came out probably turned away some bidders."
Pekovic is expected to be back in Minnesota by the end of the week, with a press conference reportedly set for Friday.