Press Conference with Nikola Pekovic and Flip Saunders
Press Conference with Nikola Pekovic and Flip SaundersFlip's Intro
"We are extremely excited to officially announce Pek. It's been a process that we've gone through. I'd like to one thank Jeff and Shawn and Pek's representative over in Europe. A lot of people took some time and it was actually a very fluid negotiation and when I took this position, about seven or eight weeks ago, we had a lot of things we wanted to do. Our number one priority was getting Pek into the fold. We felt that Pek is one of the better centers in the league, has the ability with the main core of players in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to form a threesome that I really think that you need to have to compete at a high level in this league and put yourself in potential down the road to try to win a championship and build around that. What we've been able to do with the other people we've signed this year and Pek of course was the last, but the best and we're extremely exacted to have him. He's a very unique player a lot of people have asked me about centers in this league and what's happened they are almost a dinosaur and many teams have gone to a stretch type of playing and they've done that because they really don't have the ability to have somebody that they can put down on the block and has the ability to score on the block on a consistent basis. That's something Pek can do. With Pek's physicality and along with Kevin Love, we feel we have two power players that can really be forces by the basket and help others both offensively and defensively and being physical. Maybe not blocking shots, but using their body and physical play to improve defensively. So, I'm really excited. I do believe it's, as I've said many times to Jeff, as players there's many times very unique situations when you're in the right place and I talked from the beginning in July when I talked to Jeff Schwartz that this is the right place, not only because of the players that we had, Rick Adelman as the coach, who is the right coach for him, but also in our community. Pek's been very involved in our community and very active. First thing we started talking about was fishing this morning when I saw him. If you want to go fishing, Minnesota's the right place to be. And when you can have players that want to be here and I want to say this, from the time that I got here talking to Jeff there's been no time that there's never been anything said that he did not want to be in Minnesota. This is where he wanted to be, just a matter of getting everything worked out. So we're extremely excited. As Pek said to me this morning, he can go home to Montenegro and start working and get ready for the season for some great things that can happen."
"First of all I am glad to see you all together. And I know this feels like a long time, a long negotiation and everything,. At the end of the season last year I said I wanted to say here and it was my priority and I also said to my agents, that's what I was doing. And even when they said I can look at other options I said no, I would rather stay here and I am glad that I am going to be here for the next five years and like Flip said, I'll go back home. I was already working out, but now I will start pushing more getting ready for next season."
Did you think your career would take off like this, signing a contract his big?
Pek: "My agent asked me when we signed, he asked me how I feel, I said I still don't know... I'm came out three years ago and I basically was a backup center, so I was fighting for position."
Flip: "One point you bring up, there's no player that is going to work as hard as they are going to work to reach their potential and that is one of the things we really looked at. Pek being in the prime of his career right now. And his work ethic, that's why he's where he's at today. The last three years of his career and how hard he's worked and we feel that he's going to continue to work and he's never going to be satisfied his potential to grow more and more."
Are you worried about injury problems?
"I want to be 82 for regular season. I mean, the style of how I play, sometimes injuries are part of what I'm doing... Sometimes danger will happen. It's kind of part of my job. That's what I'm trying to work on me and medical staff, that the injuries are small. That I only miss a game or two."
Flip: "That's something we need to address to as an organization. We are working with Greg our trainer and we are going to be very proactive medically. I've been a firm believer, I believe there have been times we've over trained players and there's been a number of injuries we've had over the last five or six years and players continue to trainer harder and harder and harder. And there's got to be a part where we can come to a meeting of the minds between the two. It's not just Pek's job, it's also our jobs to do what we need to do to try to have more situations conducive for our players to play at a high level and not be hurt> We're going to try to be cutting edge over the last couple months. Not only Pek, but our whole team."
Are you working out differently because of injuries?
With you, Ricky and Kevin and the new signings, what is the ceiling for this team?
"We have great potential. We were talking last year and we just need to stay healthy. With Ricky and Kevin, especially Kevin because he's an All-Star... We just need to stay healthy."
When was the last time you wore a suit and tie?
"Last game of last season I think... There was no tie."
How will you be able to handle expectations with the contract?
"No, just try to be like I was last year."
You won't be able to play for your homeland for the European tournament. Did that have to do with your contract?
"That's a big deal for us at home. Especially for me because my country is really small, they were really counting on me.. They said the last day that I can go with my initial team with the fifth of August but because of the negotiations... I'm not playing this year. Of course I'm going to miss it... It's something we like to do for our country."
Are you happy playing right now?
"Mostly I am more happy on the court than off the court. There's nobody who wouldn't be happy when you sign a big contract... What makes me happy is winning games."
What do you think of the additions?
"I think they've done a great job."
Why did the negotiation take until now to finish?
"I mean, I was talking the whole time with my agents they said we are going to wait for hits, basically it was only him not me , from my point I said I wanted to stay with Timberwolves... I said I wanted to be with the Timberwolves and that's all I said."
Flip: One thing we did when talking to Pek before hand, we've got a lot of great fans in Minnesota, but maybe no greater fans of the Timberwolves than his parents who are in Montenegro. As he was telling me, he said his parents get on the internet every game, at two or three in the morning and every time Pek is playing and goes out of a game, and say he goes back to the locker-room to get his uniform changed or something else, his dad or mom at home, they call and ask what's wrong. So we've got two very big fans back in Montenegro so I'm sure Pek will bring back some more Timberwolves gear when he goes back there tomorrow."
Was it hard to stay patient over the process?
"No, I always knew it was going to get done."
We saw in the playoffs a lot more centers playing bigger roles with teams like Memphis and Indiana
Flip: "When you have a center, you can play off that's who you want to play, you can slow the game down, you can dictate how they are going to play. There are not many teams that have that. Even Indiana. Hibbert is more of a defensive presence of really offensive presence. Pek is one of the top two or three players when you put him down on the block, he's going to score. When you look at him and Ricky and Kevin and the other player like Kevin Martin, the one thing I said I know Coach Adelman and the way he calls plays, and they don't overlap. What I mean by that is they space they take up, they don't overlap each other. Pek's got his space down there and not too many guys are going to get around him and same thing with Ricky and what he does and Kevin on the perimeter and Kevin Martin moving without the ball. That gives you the opportunity offensively. We've challenge Pek defensively, and we've talked with Pek and Jeff and he might not be a great shot blocker but he can be a physical presence and that's why we're looking for from him and Kevin Love to do for us."
Talk about how much you love Minnesota and how comfortable you are here?
"Since I got here, everyone's been nice to me, like really, really nice. And I just feel comfortable here, if you go out and everybody's nice. I just feel very comfortable, that's why I said I'd really like to stay here. And also the fishing."
Do you have a favorite lake?
Is the first time you ice fished when you were in Minnesota? "Yeah, the first time was New Years Eve last year."
Have you thought yet about what you'll do with the money? "Yeah (pause). Like I said to my friends and agents, I am thinking nothing. I need like five or six days before I think about anything. It came so quick. When everyone is talking about it, it's different. When they call and say you closed the deal and everything is done and you have to leave tomorrow. I still need like two or three more days to settle down."