Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If the NBA ever decides to do a strongman competition during All-Star weekend — and the league definitely should — the teams that squared off Tuesday night would certainly have a couple of contestants.
T-Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, a 6-11, 285-pound Montenegro mountain, would likely be the first opponent Jazz players would nominate.
“He’s a bull out there,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said.
Though he’s not as beefy, Utah’s 6-10, 268-pound Derrick Favors would have to be included on the list.
Jazz forward Marvin Williams marveled over both of those players’ strength when asked about the NBA’s top five strongest players.
“I still don’t think Derrick is 22 years old. I’m going on the record as saying that,” Williams said. “He’s got the strength of a fully grown man. It’s kind of scary to see when he’s 27 or 28 how strong he really will become.”
The Jazz hope Favors becomes as strong as Minnesota’s brute, who just turned 27. Williams said Pekovic’s physical presence has been a topic of conversation in the Jazz locker room.
“We can’t even think about a guy that’s maybe even stronger than this guy,” Williams said. “He’s a wide load down there. He’s a strong guy, for sure.”
Favors, who sat out Tuesday’s game with a hip injury, agrees.
“He might be the strongest guy in the league,” Favors said of Pekovic. “It’s hard to push him off the block and when you try to post up against him, man, he pushes you all the way out to the 3-point line.”
Where does Favors rank himself?
“I might be top five,” he said. “I’m proud of myself for that.”
Jokingly asked if he can imagine Pekovic, who resembles General Zod’s hefty henchman in "Superman II," lifting trees or ox during his offseason weight training, Williams smiled. “He’s probably pushing cars uphill.”
Pekovic, who has a tattoo of a growling bear on his left forearm, wasn't sure if he's the NBA's strongest man as Favors claimed.
"I don't know. I never look at myself like that," Pekovic said. "I'm just trying to do stuff, trying to (strengthen) my team. I know my body. I know I'm strong, of course. That's how I build career. That's how I'm existing in this league. But I don't know if I'm the strongest."
FAVORS OUT: The Jazz got some mixed news on the hip-injury front Tuesday. The good: Hayward played Tuesday night at EnergySolutions Arena after missing the past five games with a left hip flexor.
The bad: Favors missed the team’s rematch with Minnesota because of a right hip abductor injury.
Favors had to sit out Tuesday’s shootaround because of tightness in his hip, an injury that originally happened while dunking on the first play of the game Friday against Detroit. He hoped to play but was ruled out prior to tipoff.
“I kind of came down funny (on the dunk) and it’s been hurting since,” Favors said. “It’s still kind of sore.”
Favors had hoped to play to try to avenge the Jazz’s blowout in Minnesota on Saturday when Utah shot a franchise-low 28.8 percent and had a season-low offensive output.
“I’m a competitive person,” Favors said. “I’m always ready to play, but at the same time I’ve got to listen to my body and listen to my trainers and just know that it’s a long season.”
Favors didn’t let on that he was injured until Monday’s practice. Corbin said the center looked “a little gimpy” in warm-ups and was then pulled out of practice.
UNFAVORABLE TREATMENT: Hayward was quick to admit he’s thrilled to be past the daily treatment he had to go through while he was out with his hip injury. He’ll still have to get some to make sure his hip flexor isn’t reaggravated, but at least he gets to practice and play now.
“Happy to be done with that,” Hayward said. “It’s just a lot of sitting there and getting ice and (stimulation) and heat and then ice and then heat again and then ice again, and just watching SportsCenter over and over and over. It’s pretty boring.”
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