The Scoops: Wolves worried Nikola Pekovic might get Batum'd next July
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An internal fear exists at Target Center that soon-to-be restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic will be wooed Nic Batum-style next July and handcuff the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A restricted free agent, Batum signed a hefty four-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Wolves in July that the Portland Trail Blazers had to match to retain the 23-year-old swingman.
The best way for the Wolves front office to combat such a scenario is to present Pekovic and his agents a very workable extension on July 1, before other teams can make their pitch. But the collective-bargaining agreement prevents the Wolves from signing him to an extension before then.
The Wolves will have his Bird rights, which makes them the prohibitive favorite to retain the best center in franchise history long-term.
Like Batum, Pekovic will be restricted since he has three or less years in the league. But he isn't eligible for an extension by Oct. 31, which requires a minimum of a four-year contract.
I recently exchanged emails with Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford:
Ever think about what could've been here in Minnesota with how often your name has come up in the last year-plus?
JC: Yeah. Over the last two seasons my name was tied to there A LOT. Thought it would've been a good fit, but after the Clippers got involved, that was it for me.
You know Brandon Roy well. (Editor's note: They are both from Seattle and have had a close relationship for a long time). All is well through offseason workouts and two days of practice, but he still remains a question mark. Any doubt that he'll return to close to his All-Star form?
JC: I have no doubt that B will return to form. We all worked hard every single day this summer and he never complained. He just got more and more confidence, and got more comfortable and better each month of the summer!
What makes Brandon so good and secondly, so good of a teammate?
JC: What makes Brandon so good is the fact that he thinks the game. His IQ is off the charts, and he only puts himself in positions on the court where he can be successful, or help a teammate be successful. He's a very understanding teammate. He gives his guys confidence.
What can another close friend, Will Conroy, whose contract is partially guaranteed for $100,000, add to the Wolves?
JC: Conroy has been a NBA player for awhile. This is just his first real shot. He can add a pure point guard to the roster. No one will outwork him. He's got toughness and leadership. He's a winner.
Do you see Minnesota as a playoff team in the uber-competitive West?
JC: Yes. I can definitely see them being in the mix!
• As reported late last week, the Wolves still have an interest in signing free agent guard Michael Redd. A source said the Wolves thought they had a deal done with him for a non-guarantee, but he changed his mind at the last second.
• The Wolves never made a formal offer to free agent guard Mickael Pietrus, but they are still maintaining some dialogue with his camp. Their interest is conditional, which means if they make a 2-for-1 type trade in the very near future, he's an option. That seems very unlikely before Pietrus signs somewhere else.
• Wolves president of operations David Kahn has been a fan of guard Raja Bell in the past, but a source indicates that Bell's not an option for now. He is in the process of completing a buyout with the Jazz.
• A source said free agent center Hassan Whiteside outplayed big man camp invitee Chris Johnson in a private workout a few weeks ago. In other words, it's surprising that Whiteside is not currently in Mankato. He was willing to sign a Conroy-like contract.
• Ex-Wolves coach Flip Saunders is doing some work for NBA-TV.
• Ex-Wolves player and NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell is working for NBA-TV, too. He's also in the process of cultivating a national radio show.
• AAU coach Donley Minor on his former player, 6-foot-8 forward Daniel Edozie, who gave a verbal commitment to Gophers coach Tubby Smith on Wednesday: "I heard he really enjoyed his visit to Minnesota. Daniel is a very, very hard working kid in the classroom and on the court. When Daniel was in the ninth grade, he couldn't even make a layup. He improved a little in the 10th grade, but basketball wasn't his passion. It was football. In the summer after his 10th grade year, Daniel devoted himself to basketball and by his senior year we could see he was a D1 prospect. He didn't like any of the offers he was receiving, so we decided to send him to Tyler junior college in Texas to continue his development. I thought he was going to commit to either Montana State or San Jose State after last year, but he wanted to get his AA degree first. Daniel is a strong defensive player and rebounder. He has a nice mid-range jumper, but still needs work with his back to the basket. Daniel runs the floor better then most guards and can finish with the best of them."
• Twins interim general manager Terry Ryan -- the interim label will be removed soon -- will meet with the coaching staff on Thursday morning. It's at that time that some will be let go. Specific names are hard to pinpoint at the time of this publication, but the vibe from multiple team sources is to expect multiple changes.
• I recently sat down with Twins center fielder Denard Span for 30 minutes, so inevitably his future here came up. "Do I want to get traded? Of course not," Span said. "I've been in Minnesota for five years in the majors and 10 years as a professional. My heart is here. But sometimes you can't control things in life and need to move on. So if that's the case, I'll definitely be ready for that to happen."
• Twins organizational meetings will commence on Oct. 14 in Fort Myers.
• Seeing that the Seattle Mariners are moving in the fences at Safeco Field made me wonder if the Twins might soon do the same at Target Field. Assistant general manager Rob Antony downplayed the thought, suggesting that the ballpark ranks in the middle of the pack in home runs.
• The Twins will hold an all-staff party on the field on Thursday. They'll have an opportunity to take batting practice and, who knows, maybe audition for the 2013 rotation ...
• A Red Sox source, when asked if infielder Mike Aviles makes sense as a Twins trade candidate this winter: "He's a great guy, good player, and good clubhouse guy. I'd like him to stay. That said, if we decide to make Jose Iglesias our guy next year -- and that's a big if -- we wouldn't make Aviles sit behind him or platoon. He's an everyday big leaguer for most teams. Shortstop is his preferred spot, but he can play second. He doesn't play much 3rd. He would be a nice fit for the Twins."
• Former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, who is now teaching a sports management class at the "U" said his transition "is going well. I miss some of the 'action' and contact with athletes, coaches, staff and donors, but also am able to do some things I wasn't able to do before. I'm going to a South Dakota game (my son works there), to a Notre Dame game ( my alma mater and was never able to go in the past), and may even head north to hunt with my son-in-law and brother. I'm enjoying teaching and helping when asked and continue to attend as many games as I can. Life is good."
• Two good people in sports administration at the "U" -- associate athletic directors Jason LaFrenz and Regina Sullivan -- were fired on Wednesday. Sullivan recently had her men's basketball duties stripped away in favor of associate athletic director Mike Ellis. LaFrenz's speciality was marketing and ticket sales.
• Former Gophers safety Kim Royston is coaching defensive backs at Hamline and is completing his master's degree at the "U". (He will be done in December). He started training last month after getting the go-ahead from his doctor. He says he's 100% for the first time since 2009. He underwent sports hernia surgery shortly after last season and was invited by the Vikings to a rookie minicamp in May, but he had to back out because of a stress fracture in his right leg.
• Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague holds parties at his Minneapolis house every Friday night before home football games for donors, opposing athletic directors and their traveling party and friends of the program. He plans on entertaining bowl representatives at these gatherings in the very near future.
• Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway is holding his second annual Celebrity Waiter night Monday at Manny's Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis. Among the waiters will be Greenway's teammates Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. The event will benefit Greenway's Lead The Way Foundation, an organization that provides opportunities, support and resources to children and families in need throughout the Twin Cities.
• DeLaSalle High School basketball (and football) recruit Reid Travis got a visit from Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo on Tuesday. This is Izzo's second such trip in less than a month. Travis remains a huge priority for the Gophers.
• Apple Valley High School point guard Tyus Jones is expected to visit Duke and North Carolina next weekend when official practices begin. Izzo saw him, too.