Timberwolves keeping Nikola Pekovic on minutes limit for now

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The only time the Timberwolves seemed to take charge in their loss to the Knicks Wednesday night was in the third quarter when Nikola Pekovic took over. It’s not a shock if you’ve watched the Timberwolves this season — he averages 18 points a game on 53.9 percent shooting, the Minnesota offense is 4.7 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

But he’s not on court as much as the Timberwolves need him. Not as much as he wants to be. Not much in the fourth quarter vs. the Knicks.

After missing 13 games with an ankle injury he Timberwolves’ doctors have him on a minutes limit. Minnesota reporter Mark Remme talked about it at the Wolves Web site.

The team is aiming to keep him around the 20-minute mark during this early stretch in his return. He already played 21 minutes by the time the fourth quarter began. In fact, in his three games back he’s played 28, 24 and 26 minutes, respectively.

“It’s just tough, you know?” Pekovic said. “But I’ve just got to do whatever they [the medical staff] say. I’m still going over my limit. My limit is 20. … In the third I really felt good. I was getting going, so when coach had to sign on the court, he didn’t want to sub me out. I didn’t want to go out. But that’s the fact. I need to follow the rules now, try to heal things up.”

Pekovic said in the interview his ankle does hurt some during games. At this point, with the Timberwolves all but officially out of the playoff hunt (five games back with 22 to play, they would have to go at least 17-5 the rest of the way to make it) what is the point of pushing Pekovic to potentially another injury?

Minnesota needs to look ahead, all the way to next season. When Pekovic will be a big part of what they do. Better to stick with the restrictions, not aggravate things, and make sure the big man is back healthy next fall.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.