Nikola Pekovic, a Minnesota Timberwolves center fresh off of his rookie season in the NBA, will return to Serbia to play for Partizan Belgrade during the NBA lockout, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Pekovic, who hails from Montenegro, a nation that became independent from Serbia in 2006, played for Partizan from 2005 through 2008 before moving on to Greek power Panathinaikos and, eventually, the Wolves.
Minnesota made Pekovic the first pick in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft, and in July 2010 signed him to the largest rookie deal ever signed by a second-round pick, a three-year contract worth $13 million. Pekovic, like every Wolf not named Kevin Love, had a disappointing 2010-11 season, averaging just 13.6 minutes per game off the bench. He largely played behind ineffective Serbian teammate Darko Milicic.
Partizan is the top club in Serbia, and also a major contender in the Adriatic League, which includes the top sides from the nations that once made up Yugoslavia. Partizan has won the past five Adriatic League titles.
Partizan will compete in Euroleague this season. That brings the number of players under NBA contract who have signed or are reported to be near deals with Euroleague clubs to eight.