Pekovic returns to Wolves' lineup, still fighting through ankle pain
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Nikola Pekovic wasn't ready yet to shut down for the season.
Pekovic returned to the Minnesota Timberwolves' starting lineup Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers after sitting out six games following a setback in his recovery from an injured right ankle.
The pain and soreness hasn't entirely faded from his ankle, but Pekovic's final stat line Friday didn't show it. In his first game back, he went off for a game-high 26 points in the Wolves' franchise record-setting 143-107 shellacking of the Lakers.
"It was kind of a release of (frustration) for a moment, but you can still feel the pain," Pekovic said. "It kind of feels the same, but the wins can make it better, that's for sure. I was really happy to be back.
It's been a maddening couple of months for Pekovic, who has missed a total of 19 games since originally going down with the injury in late-January after 44 straight starts. Pekovic came back for a seven-game stretch, but the pain in his ankle built up again and forced him back to the sidelines.
"Just trying to you know, keep my head straight first of all, it's kind of really tough for me," Pekovic said. "You know, whatever you do, it's still there ... so, I'm just trying to play through this."
However, even with the lingering nature of his injury and the Wolves' slide out of playoff contention, Pekovic said at no point did he consider sitting out for the rest of the season as a precaution.
The injury has caused Pekovic to slightly alter his in-game approach, which in the long run could potentially help to better protect him from future injuries.
"I'm still unable to run full sprint, fastbreaks and all of that," Pekovic said. "I'm trying to some regular stuff inside to save my energy a little bit. I'm really trying not to expose myself too much."
Pekovic mentioned he hasn't been given an official restriction on how much playing time he can log in the next few games. As coach Rick Adelman said pregame, "his conditioning, the way he runs, will dictate that."
Under close watch, Pekovic went on to play close to 22 minutes, made easier by the Wolves' triple-digits second half lead.
"I wanted to play him at least six, seven minutes, conditioning-wise," Adelman said. "He was really good. He was making his presence felt in there."
A fresh wave of talk about Adelman's future with the Wolves surfaced Friday when ESPN's Marc Stein released a report indicating the 67-year-old was actively contemplating opting out of the final year of his four-year contract at the end of the year.
When Adelman was asked about the report, he didn't bristle at the question like some expected him too. Instead, he slyly avoided a full answer.
"ESPN has a lot of reports out there, a lot experts, a lot of reports, a lot of channels. I don't watch them all," Adelman said, smiling.
There will be a time to discuss his future as a head coach, but for now, Adelman is choosing to hold off on talking about whether or not he plans to retire.
"I'm just concentrating on these games," Adelman said. "We'll find out when that happens, but right now I'm just involved in this season and asking these guys to put the effort out every night. I think all of us have to do that.
A two-week window will open when the Wolves' season ends on April 16 in which either Adelman or the Wolves can choose to opt out of the last year of his contract.