Sources: Pekovic's deal worth $13M
The Minnesota Timberwolves reached a verbal agreement on a three-year, $13 million contract with their 2008 second-round pick Nikola Pekovic, two league sources told ESPN.com's Chad Ford.
Pekovic is a big, 6-foot-11 bruising center who has had an impressive career playing in Greece the past two seasons. Pekovic averaged 14.8 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game in 23 minutes per game for Panathinikos in Euroleague play last season.
One league source said that had Pekovic been in this year's draft he would have been a top-10 pick.
"He's one of the most dominant big men in Europe right now and I think he can have an immediate impact in the NBA," said the source.
Pekovic was drafted with the first pick in the second round by the Timberwolves in the 2008 NBA draft. He was widely regarded as a potential first-round pick, but slid in the draft thanks to concerns about his contract situation with Panathinikos. Two years later, it looks like he's finally headed to the NBA.
Team president David Kahn would not say that a deal is in place.
"I don't feel comfortable saying that without anything written on a piece of paper," Kahn said. "He's somebody who could really help us."
The Wolves' work this summer isn't done. The team will also work hard in the coming days to re-sign Serbian center Darko Milicic while simultaneously exploring trades for Al Jefferson, according to sources.
Kahn said he spoke to the agent for center Milicic on a busy night and is working to bring the 7-footer back to Minnesota.
Given his first extensive playing time in years, Milicic averaged 8.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 24 games with the Wolves. Rambis was impressed with Milicic's versatility and presence on the defensive end, and was vocal in his desire to see him return.
Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein, said Wednesday that his client is definitely open to returning to Minnesota.
"I know he really enjoyed his time in Minnesota and would be happy to come back if everything worked out," Cornstein said.
"Darko, we think, could be our starting center this year and we'd like to have him back," Kahn said. They are also bringing free agents Rudy Gay of Memphis and David Lee of New York in for visits this week.
Kahn says Gay will come to the Twin Cities on Thursday and stay through Friday and Lee will arrive on Saturday and spend the day.
Shortly after the free agent market opened at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, Kahn called representatives for Gay and Lee and both accepted the invitations.
"They clearly were the two players I felt we wanted to meet and wanted to get to know better and have an opportunity to have a dialogue with," Kahn said early Thursday morning. "I'm very pleased that both of them accepted."
Gay averaged 19.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season for the Grizzlies and fits what Kahn says the team is looking for in a young, athletic wing player with a versatile offensive game. He is a restricted free agent, so the Grizzlies would have the right to match any offer made.
"He's a player that's been on our radar from a distance for quite some time," Kahn said.
The invitation to Lee could be further proof that Jefferson's days in Minnesota are coming to an end. Lee averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Knicks last season. Kahn thinks his skills fit the up-tempo offense Rambis wants to run better than Jefferson, who thrives in the halfcourt as one of the best low-post offensive players in the game.
"It is fluid. We don't know what will occur there," Kahn said of the possibility of trading Jefferson, who averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in his first season back from major knee surgery. "David Lee plays a style of play that fits very well with who we are and who we aim to be. He's very productive. He runs very well. He's strong around the basket. Exceptional passer. We thought he would also be a very obvious fit for us going forward."
Gay is expected to visit the Nets and Knicks on Friday and Saturday, and the Miami Heat would like to meet with him in the coming days as well. Lee will almost assuredly take other visits before making a decision and Kahn said it was still far too early to say if any offers would be made.
Miami or Chicago will meet with Lee first, on Friday, and he also has a meeting lined up with the Nets.
Chad Ford is an ESPN NBA Insider. Information ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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