By: Dan Cole | KFAN.com
The final piece of the Timberwolves’ puzzle is now in place.
After weeks of negotiations, the Wolves signed center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year contract worth $60 million on Wednesday.
The deal was originally going to be only a four-year contract worth $48 million, but talks between the Wolves’ front office and Pekovic and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, tacked on a fifth year to the signing.
“We came out very aggressive July 1 in going after Pek,” said Wolves president Flip Saunders. “These last seven weeks between our organization and myself and Pek’s people have been more of an educational process. We feel that where we came out -- where we started at, through educating them and where we ended up -- we feel very positive.”
After reaching career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season, Pekovic has emerged as one of the top centers in the league and it was expected that he would be the subject of much pursuit from other teams this offseason.
Being that he was a restricted free agent, the Wolves would’ve had the opportunity to match any offer that another team might make, but they never had to encounter such a situation.
Pekovic, in combination with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, completes the franchise’s big three to go along with recent additions Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, as well as the re-signed Chase Budinger.
“What happens now is that we are much different in how we can play at times than the teams we’re playing against,” Saunders said. “We just felt it was one of those situations that our top three guys really blended very well together, they can play off each other, now the biggest thing is to get them to play together.”
Some thought the cash and duration of the deal for Pekovic was maybe too much – that either he didn’t deserve that long of a deal or that kind of salary. He’ll be making $12 million per year.
As it compares to other centers around the league, Andrew Bogut is making $14.2 million, Joakim Noah is making $12.1 million, Al Horford is making $12 million and Tyson Chandler is making $14.1.
Love is going to make over $14.6 million this season with an increasing salary over the next three seasons. It was thought that Pekovic’s signing might frustrate Love, who was denied a five-year extension in 2012 when David Kahn was at the helm of the team’s operations.
But according to Saunders, Love is perfectly fine with the deal. He just wants to win.
“Kevin’s relationship that I think I’ve built with him over the time that I’ve been here has been very solid,” Saunders said. “He’s very much committed. More than anything else, he wanted Pek back because he wants to win, and I think that’s the most important thing that came out of Kevin Love’s mouth, is that he does want to win.”
From here, all that’s left for the Wolves to do is to prepare for training camp and for the beginning of the regular season in late October. The front office has been busy from the outset of free agency to make the team into a winning organization.
“I think we’ve pretty much shown that we are committed to doing what we have to do in order to win,” Saunders said