The Scoops: Opinions remain split on paying Nikola Pekovic $12M a year
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In a Thursday afternoon chat with the team's website, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn volunteered yet again that point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Kevin Love are untouchable in trade talks.
Kahn didn't mention Nikola Pekovic in that equation, but did offer say the Montenegrin center is "a big part of what we're doing. Hopefully, he'll be a part of us for many years to come."
I continue to hear there's a split opinion internally about whether Pekovic is worth $12 million a year long-term beginning this summer, when he'll be a restricted free agent.
League sources remain confident that, if a Pekovic trade comes, there's a better chance it's this summer in a sign-and-trade.
Other Wolves trade tidbits, with the Feb. 21 deadline less than three weeks away:
• The Wolves were never in the discussions with Memphis and Toronto that resulted in forward Rudy Gay going to the Raptors. The two teams eventually got Detroit to join the mix. Atlanta, Boston and Dallas were among the teams that did take part in the talks.
• Atlanta is making available forward Josh Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July. But the Wolves still don't have interest.
• If you believe Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo, multiple teams are keeping close tabs on Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani. Out since mid-December with a right elbow injury, he's expected back before the trade deadline. While Colangelo could be telling the truth, two league sources said they haven't heard the Wolves attached to such a scenario. One scoffed at the mere thought of Bargnani in Minnesota. The other didn't totally dismiss it. The former 2006 No. 1 overall pick has two years and $23 million left on his contract after this season.
• The Wolves have most of their scouts in town for midseason meetings.
• Forward Kevin Love is expected back in town Saturday. His doctor wanted to manage his rehabilitation in New York these few weeks.
• The Knicks and Sixers are said to have interest in Wolves forward Lou Amundson. He's the expected odd man out once a roster decision has to be made next week. The best the Wolves can expect in a trade is a heavily protected future second-round pick.
• The Wolves still haven't inquired about free agent center Greg Oden.
• The Twins continue to await word from pitcher Joe Saunders' agent, Greg Genske. The belief internally continues to be that Saunders prefers to be somewhere else. But it's possible he'll soon run out of options. The Twins want Saunders on a one-year deal, but could be willing to go to two years.
• A Twins source on their interest in Cuban free agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz: "The projected money is getting out of hand."
• The Twins never showed an interest in free agent second baseman Kelly Johnson, a good candidate for a bounce-back season. He signed a one-year deal with Tampa.
• In spite of offseason conversations, the Twins never made pitcher Freddy Garcia a contract offer. He signed a minor-league deal with San Diego earlier in the week.
• The Twins never had an interest in utility player Bill Hall. He signed a minor-league deal with the Angels on Wednesday.
• The Twins maintained dialogue off-and-on with infielder Yuni Betancourt's agent throughout this offseason, but they never made an offer. He signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies earlier in the week.
• The Twins didn't have a scout in Arizona on Wednesday to watch the tryout for free agent pitchers Mark Lowe, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Kip Wells.
• Twins outfielder Josh Willingham is expecting to move out of ex-Twin Jim Thome's house into a new one this season. Willingham and his family are still renting.
• Until 15 years ago, St. Paul native Matt Birk's claim to fame was growing up three houses away from actor Josh Hartnett. Now, six Pro Bowl appearances, three conference championship game losses and two surgeries later, he'll play for an NFL title on Sunday night for the Ravens. His best friend over the last 27 years, Jim Runyon, will be in New Orleans rooting him on. So will his mom, dad, brothers, sister-in-law, wife, six children and other friends.
• While researching for a KSTP-TV story, the most out-of-the-box Birk nugget: after a couple car accidents in high school, he had to sacrifice his driver's license. He got it back a few years later.
• USC athletic director Pat Haden is said to be looking for an African-American basketball coach, so that's how the Gophers' Tubby Smith was mentioned. A "U" source continues to poo-poo the notion.
• A Gophers basketball source when asked via text message if there's any new practice facility news: "No."
• All 28 "Golden Ticket" basketball holders who lost their going privilege when Michigan beat the Gophers took advantage of the one-time reactivation opportunity. For $25, they can keep coming to Williams Arena games in Section 203 as long as the Gophers win. Twenty customers representing 41 tickets came to the game against Nebraska on Tuesday night. In total, 41 people hold 81 tickets.
• Robbinsdale Cooper High School junior Rashad Vaughn will be at Saturday night's Baylor-Iowa State game in Ames. Both schools badly want the wing. So do the Gophers. The recruiting trip is an unofficial one. Vaughn will also be taking an unofficial visit to Kansas in the near future.
• DeLaSalle High School junior Reid Travis got an in-person scholarship offer from Rutgers on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the week, Travis got a basketball offer from Arizona. Expect many more offers to come in after next week's National Signing Day.
• Wisconsin basketball signee, Minnetonka senior Riley Dearring, will miss another couple weeks with a broken left (non-shooting) hand. The Gophers never offered Dearring a scholarship.
• At halftime of the Feb. 15 Apple Valley-Jefferson game, the Jaguars will honor former center Cole Aldrich by hanging his jersey in the rafters. Aldrich, who is playing with the Rockets, will be home for the All-Star break.