Working Out With Nikola Pekovic

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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If there’s one Timberwolves player who is a staple of the LifeTime Fitness Training Center’s weight room, it’s center Nikola Pekovic. It’s one of his favorite spots to be.

“I can’t really explain it,” Pekovic said. “I just like it. I just like being in the weight room. I just feel really comfortable.”

Pekovic had a breakout season a year ago with the Wolves, gaining more and more minutes and eventually taking over the starting center role under coach Rick Adelman due in large part to his overwhelming presence in the paint. Pekovic gained a reputation around the NBA for his hard-nosed play, tough defense and the team’s best pick-and-roll defender.

A lot of it has to do with his stature. At 6-foot-11, Pekovic isn’t the tallest center in the league. But he’s rock solid, and simply going toe-to-toe with him in the paint puts the opposition in a difficult, tiring position.

A year ago Lakers center Andrew Bynum said after a game against Minnesota he was thankful when Pekovic took a rest, and in his lone meeting with Dwight Howard he helped put the perennial All-Star in foul trouble early. On Tuesday, teammate Kevin Love said he played pick-up games this week with his teammates and was guarding Pekovic. Love said Pekovic was so powerful it wasn’t an enjoyable assignment to guard him.

“Whatever they’re lifting in Montenegro, he’s unbelievably strong,” Love said this week. “I don’t know what he’s eating.”

Much of Pekovic’s strength on the court comes from his tireless workout routine, which stretches year-round. Whether he’s training during the summer in Montenegro—he built his father a house in his native country, equipped with a weight room—or training in Minnesota during the season, Pekovic is always trying to challenge himself and improve his strength.

He came back to camp this year eight pounds lighter, though his body is much leaner and, it appears, even stronger than a year ago.

He began lifting weights when he was 17 or 18 years old, and it was an activity that not only helped prepare him for a career in basketball but also became a natural, enjoyable pastime. He said he’s always worked with a structured routine, even now working with strength and conditioning coach Keke Lyles to find the optimal workout for whatever part of the calendar year he’s in.

His workouts tone down during the regular season due to fatigue of the NBA schedule, but that doesn’t mean he’s not visible hitting the weights after practice.

“It’s always different. During the summer you can do whatever you want, there are no games,” Pekovic said. “During the season we have so many games, sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you have to change everything.”

It’s all part of the equation of what made Pekovic a breakout player last year, and it’s why assistant coach Bill Bayno said he expects even bigger and better things from Pekovic this season. He doesn’t change gears—whatever he’s doing, he’s doing as hard as he can.

“Every day is a challenge,” Pekovic said. “For me, every day is a challenge on the court, in the weight room. Whatever I’m doing, every day is a challenge.”

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