By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
A pair of bodies collided, and J.J. Barea let out a sound that was half grunt, half groan. It was the sound let out when a 6-foot-0, 175-pound body hits a 290-pound brick wall of a screen.
The wall was Barea’s Timberwolves teammate, 6-11 center Nikola Pekovic.
Since the NBA team’s training camp began Tuesday at Minnesota State’s Brensan Arena, it’s been noted that Pekovic looks to be in better shape since last season. While he’s lost a little weight, he’s also gained a lot of muscle.
That, of course, means less cushion for Barea or anyone else who has banged with the big man this week.
“I wasn’t concentrating on losing weight, I was more concentrating on losing body fat,” Pekovic said Thursday. “I just tried to prepare myself for this season. Coach (Rick Adelman) already told me that I’ll play a little more, so I just need to be prepared for the season. ... I just tried to come here ready, that’s all.”
Pekovic, a 26-year-old native of Montenegro, is beginning his third season with the Timberwolves and is hoping to improve off a solid second year in which he averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
“He came in here in great shape,” Adelman said.
On Thursday, Pekovic showed off some nifty left-handed shots during the open portion of the scrimmage and, at the end of practice, led his teammates up and down the floor during sprints.
“The big difference is experience,” he said. “ I just feel somehow different this season.”
But Pekovic isn’t resting on anything. He talked about working on improving his shooting range over the summer and received some instruction on passing from former teammate Brad Miller, who is helping the coaching staff this week.
Adelman said that the Pekovic has the ability to shoot 15- and 16-foot jump shots and also raved about Pekovic’s passing ability.
“I tell you one thing he’s done ... really well, he can pass the ball,” Adelman said. “He made some passes today we really have not seen him make before. And I think it’s him reading what’s happening and making the play. I was really impressed with how he passed the ball today.”
Pekovic said he’s a much more confident player, as he knows the players and league better than he did during last year’s lockout-shortened season.
“Everybody wants to be all-around player, but that’s impossible,” he said. “So I’m just trying to improve some skills.”
Taylor hosts team
The Timberwolves had dinner at owner Glen Taylor’s Mankato home Wednesday night. Taylor also watched part of Thursday’s practice.
“He tries to get know the players,” Adelman said. “He tries to get to know who the families are, and it helps when an owner is that accessable to you. He’s been really good with me, as far as listening and accepting input. It’s been good, the whole year.”