Nikola Pekovic

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NBA sets record with 113 international players, a plurality from Canada, on opening-night rosters

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Until last season, the NBA set or tied its record for number of international players on opening-night rosters the previous three years.

But after peaking at 101 in 2014-15, the number dropped to 100 last season.

A sign the league has hit its foreign saturation point?

Probably not.

The NBA boasts a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories to begin this season. Canada, with 11, leads the league for the third straight year.

A count of international players in the NBA on opening night:

  • 2016-17: 113
  • 2015-16: 100
  • 2014-15: 101
  • 2013-14: 92
  • 2012-13: 84

Here’s a full list of 2016-17 international players, but before you read it, take our quizzes on opening-night rosters.

Tom Thibodeau doesn’t expect Nikola Pekovic to play in training camp

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The bigger question becomes, will Nikola Pekovic ever play serious minutes in the NBA again? Any minutes?

Pekovic played in just 12 games last season (and 31 the season before that) as foot injuries have sidelined him. With Karl-Anthony Towns front and center, the Timberwolves have moved on. Their front court rotation also has Gorgui Dieng, Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill, and maybe Kevin Garnett if he decides to play and not retire.

Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t sound like he’s expecting anything from the 30-year-old Pekovic.

Considering the rotation already in place up front for Minnesota, it’s hard to imagine Pekovic getting any run unless he came back fully healthy, moving very well, and he became a defensive force inside. Which sounds very unlikely.

Pekovic is still owed $23.7 million fully guaranteed this season and next.

Report: Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic not ready physically but working out

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Nikola Pekovic played just 12 last season before the Timberwolves shut him down with more right-foot problems.

It’s still an issue for the center.

Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500:

He’s in town. He’s been in town the last few weeks. He worked out in front of Wolves personnel last week. He is still not ready physically.

The Timberwolves have buried Pekovic in their rotation. With Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Kevin Garnett already signed, Minnesota added Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill this summer.

Nikola Pekovic will have to be nearly fully healthy to earn minutes in that crowd. His low-post scoring won’t be enough unless he plays passable defense for Tom Thibodeau – something Pekovic has a chance to do only if he’s moving well.

This latest update doesn’t sound promising for the 30-year-old.

Report: Timberwolves signing Jordan Hill to two-year, $8 million contract

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If you looked at the Timberwolves’ roster and saw enough players whose best position is center — Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic — you’re not Tom Thibodeau.

First, Minnesota signed Cole Aldrich.

Now, Jordan Hill joins.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports

I guess the Timberwolves, well below the salary floor, had a hole burning in their pocket. In that context, Hill is a fine addition. He rebounds well, and he’s effective as an interior scorer when not settling for jumpers.

His effort and awareness are sometimes questionable, though. Thibodeau will fix that and bring out the best in Hill — or be driven crazy by his newest player.

Before that, Thibodeau should keep looking for wings.

Timberwolves come back from 18 down to stun Raptors, 117-112

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 35 points and 11 rebounds, and the Minnesota Timberwolves came back from 18 points down to stun the Toronto Raptors 117-112 on Wednesday night.

Canadian star Andrew Wiggins scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, including a jumper with under 2 minutes to go that gave Minnesota a 112-109 lead. Ricky Rubio had 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds to outplay All-Star Kyle Lowry, and the Wolves used a huge advantage at the free throw line to close out a team that had won 14 of its last 15 games.

DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points for the Raptors, who head home to host All-Star Weekend beginning on Friday night. But Lowry was held to 14 points and seven assists while battling foul trouble, and the combination of Wiggins and Towns was too much down the stretch.

Minnesota set season highs with 43 free throws made on 53 attempts on the way to its largest comeback win of the season. The Raptors were whistled for 34 fouls compared to 21 for the Wolves.

The Raptors looked to be cruising toward a highly anticipated weekend in Canada when they raced out to an 18-point lead in the second quarter. Then Lowry picked up his fourth foul, Jonas Valanciunas couldn’t handle Towns in the paint and the Timberwolves came all the way back to grab the lead early in the fourth quarter.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey emphasized before the game the need for a veteran group to hold it together for one more night before the party starts in Toronto. The Raptors were facing a Timberwolves team with the third-worst record in the West that was just blown out by lowly New Orleans in this building two nights prior.

When the Raptors got up big early, they may have relaxed a little bit and they found themselves in a fight for the final 9 minutes.

Rubio’s third 3-pointer gave the Timberwolves a 104-98 lead with 5:24 to play.

The Raptors fought back to tie the game with under 3 minutes to play, but Wiggins hit big shot after big shot a day before heading back to his hometown to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.

Gorgui Dieng had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and all five Timberwolves starters finished in double figures.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Their 68 points were their most in a first half this season. … Bismack Biyombo left in the second quarter after a nasty spill under the basket but was able to return in the second half. … The Raptors made 10 of 31 3-pointers to just 4 of 14 for Minnesota.

Timberwolves: F Tayshaun Prince missed the game to attend former teammate Chauncey Billups’ jersey retirement ceremony in Detroit. … Zach LaVine started in Prince’s place and finished with 13 points. … The Wolves again played without Kevin Garnett (leg), Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (wrist).

UP NEXT

Raptors: Visit Chicago on Feb. 19.

Timberwolves: Visit Memphis on Feb. 19.