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Blatant Homerism

T’Wolves big man Nikola Pekovic crawls around like a baby as part of unusual workout regimen

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Looking at Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic is an exercise in intimidation. A physique that looks like it was chiseled out of a block of granite is made even more intimidating by its adornment with menacing tattoos.

Pekovic, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Non from “Superman II,” was rewarded by the team for his potential and dedication to his game with a five-year, $60 million contract that was signed in the offseason.

Some considered the contract a risk as Pekovic has been unable to stay healthy for an entire season during his first few years in the league.

But all of that appears to be changing this season. Pek has remained relatively injury-free this season. And all credit is being given to an unorthodox workout regimen administered by the team’s new director of sports performance, Koichi Sato.

While Sato’s methods are a bit odd — more on that later — Pekovic believes it has helped him stay on the court this season, arguably his most productive in his young career.

“Until now it helps,” Pekovic told the Star Tribune. “I think this is the biggest stretch — 40 games I already played — and it’s first time I don’t got any injury. For now it really helps. Some things you can’t avoid, if you turn an ankle or something. But I can really see my body is accepting it really good. I can see that it really helps my body. I’m more flexible. I’m moving better.”

Sato has been putting Pekovic through a series of strange exercises that include the hulking center crawling around on the floor like a baby.

Three times a week, he’s in the Target Center basement weight room down on his stomach or elbows or all fours, making small, measured movements intended to replicate how an infant learns to crawl, roll, sit and eventually walk.

The tattooed, self-declared “real man” whom opponents call probably the NBA’s strongest also will deliver, if the mood strikes him, sound effects along with the delicate motions designed to strengthen and stabilize his smaller muscles after he has spent a lifetime pumping the biggest ones.

“Waaaaaaa,” he says, contorting his face and mimicking a baby’s cry.

The inspiration for the bizarre routine is a field of study called Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, which is used to test infants and has moved on to help train and rehab athletes. It is even used by Cirque du Soleil performers.

If that wasn’t bizarre enough — watching Pekovic crawling around on all fours (video here) sometimes going “Waaaaaa,” another exercise involves Pek behaving like he is preparing himself for his big reveal at a debutante’s ball.

A man who once only pumped more and more iron, Pekovic now walks with a block atop his head on a beam placed on the weight-room floor, not all that unlike a beauty-show contestant from days gone by who balanced a book on her head to improve posture.

Pek’s All-Star Game-starting teammate, Kevin Love, doesn’t care what the center does during training, so long as it works.

“I think he enjoys the baby ones better because then he gets to make the noises,” Love said. “He’s a big baby. A big teddy bear, too, though.”

As mentioned above, the results — Pek staying healthy — merit a continued dedication to the unorthodox regimen. A punishing presence to opposing defenders, Pekovic is virtually unstoppable in the paint and his statistics this season bear that out. He’s averaging 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Keep the baby-crawling going, right?

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