Nikola Pekovic: The Original Jeremy Lin

By now you’ve heard of Jeremy Lin, point guard for the New York Knicks. You’ve seen the Linsation in action, crossing over last year’s number one pick, John Wall for the uncontested one-handed slam. Maybe you’ve been taken over by the Linsanity like the rest of the country. (His nicknames multiply with each start).

The second-year Harvard grad is putting up big numbers for the Knicks, saving NYC from the brink of another lost season. How big and timely are the numbers? Lin is averaging 25 points and eight assists in 39 minutes of action in his last three games, all wins for the Knicks who are missing both Melo and Amare. Lin’s burst onto the NYC scene has earned him 60,000 new Twitter followers in just five days. It’s become legend that Lin had been sleeping on his brother’s couch, unsure if the Knicks would cut him. (He has since found his own place). Fans at the Verizon Center held up signs that said “Linning and Grinning” during pre-game intros at the Verizon Center in D.C. last night. Not a bad week for J-Lin.

Have we ever seen anything like this — 12th man to starter to cult hero in less than seven days? Yes, actually. Two weeks ago in Minnesota with a 6-11, 290 pound center named Nikola Pekovic aka Pek-Man, aka Pekquille O’Neal, aka The Godfather. February has been a revelation for the Montenegran center. With Darko Milicic out with a quad injury and Kevin Love suspended two games for stomping on Luis Scola’s face, Pek provided toughness on defense and an innate ability give the Wolves much-needed front court production in and around the basket on offense.

In the month of February, Pek is averaging 16.8 points, and 10.2 rebounds while shooting 65.4% from the field in a little over 31 minutes of action. In Pekovic’s first 11 games, he played a total of four minutes for Rick Adelman. The knock on Pek was that he was a bruiser in Europe, otherwise known as a foul machine in the states. Last season, he led the league in fouls per 40 minutes. Perhaps finally understanding the American game, Pek is averaging only 2.6 personal fouls a game in February.

Like Lin, Nikola Pekovic’s cult following inside the Target Center has since exploded outside of Minny thanks to a string of impressive performances in the month of February. So while Lin grabs the headlines on SportsCenter and his dunks go viral on the web, just remember that before the Linsanity, there was Pek-Man.

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