NBA: Wolves' Rubio close to returning
By Marcus R. FullerSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- The Timberwolves anticipated not having Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic fully healthy in training camp as they come back from injuries. But Rubio, recovering from ankle surgery, was cleared ...
By Marcus R. Fuller
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - The Timberwolves anticipated not having Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic fully healthy in training camp as they come back from injuries.
But Rubio, recovering from ankle surgery, was cleared to play 5-on-5 last month and is expected to play in the Oct. 28 season opener against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
“I’m not ready yet,” Rubio said Monday at the Wolves’ media day. “But health-wise, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be fine. Ankle feels strong, feels good.”
Pekovic is a different story.
The 6-foot-11, 295-pound former starting center got off crutches from offseason surgery only a few months ago. Pekovic said Monday he won’t be available until a month or so into the season.
“Hopefully six or seven weeks, maybe something like that,” he said. “But that plan doesn’t mean anything until how you feel, how you’re progressing.”
Pekovic has struggled with foot and ankle problems the past three seasons. He underwent Achilles’ tendon surgery in April with hopes of improving his issues with bursitis. He also had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle in May 2013.
Last season, Pekovic played a career-low 31 games, but he hasn’t played more than 65 games since his rookie season in 2010-11. He averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game in 2014-15 but shot a career-worst 42.4 percent from the field.
With No. 1 draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Kevin Garnett as options to play center for the Wolves this season, Pekovic won’t need to rush back.
The big question is whether Pekovic can ever become healthy enough to resemble the player the Wolves signed to a five-year, $60 million contract in 2013. He averaged 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in 2013-14, but even then he missed 28 games because of ankle problems.
“Last two years, I was dealing with that specific problem where I got my surgery,” Pekovic said. “The pain came back the first game. I was dealing with that, trying to do whatever I could doing treatment. But in the end you could tell nothing could help but surgery. Every step was painful.”
Pekovic is able to shoot and lift weights, but he won’t be cleared to even start running for a few weeks. His doctors have said he probably will continue to feel some pain this season.
He doesn’t remember the last time he wasn’t in pain.
“It was a very long time ago,” Pekovic said. “Last few years I was playing with that problem. I was playing with the pain. I was getting so used to the pain, it was crazy.”
The Pioneer PRESS is a media partner of Forum News Service.