When Igor Rakocevic was a youngster, friends dubbed him "White Jordan" because he loved to dunk the basketball.
Michael Jordan is still the Yugoslavian point guard's favorite NBA player, so it's no surprise that Rakocevic hopes to play against him next season. But two things have to happen: Jordan, who came out of retirement last season, has to return to the Washington Wizards for 2002-03, and the Timberwolves must sign Rakocevic.
"He has the ability to prove that he can play for us,'' Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "That's why it's a big week for him, to see how he develops in Boston.''
Rakocevic, the Wolves' second-round draft choice in 2000, is one of about a dozen players who will play for Minnesota this week at Shaw's Pro Summer League in Boston. He also has taken part in a Wolves minicamp the past three days.
Rakocevic, 6 feet 3 and 175 pounds, has a year left on his contract with Buducnost Podgorica in Yugoslavia, but that contract can be bought out if the Wolves want to sign him. The Wolves have only Terrell Brandon signed at point guard, so this could be Rakocevic's best shot to catch on with the team. He is competing with summer league teammates Khalid El-Amin and Marcus Taylor for a roster spot.
"Of course I want to play in the NBA,'' Rakocevic said. "I feel good here, and I think I can surprise a lot of people with what I can do. The most important thing for me is, if I come to Minnesota, I want to get some playing time, which would allow me to show my skills and earn more minutes."
Rakocevic, 24, averaged 17.7 points and 2.1 assists with Buducnost Podgorica last season and will play for Yugoslavia in the World Championships in September at Indianapolis. Rakocevic said he is trying to improve his free-throw and three-point shooting, but Saunders said Rakocevic is a better player than when the Wolves drafted him.
"He's extremely athletic, he's more confident, he has more of an ability to create and to score with the basketball,'' Saunders said.
Rakocevic said he has strengthened his body, his defense, his shooting and his ball handling during the past two years.
"I know the things they want to see in the players, and I'm just trying to do the best I can: play good defense, get my teammates the ball,'' he said. "I want very much to play in the NBA, and I'm just trying to play my best here and in Boston.''
First cuts: The Wolves trimmed their minicamp roster to 13 on Sunday, and they may cut an additional player today before leaving for Boston.
Former Gophers Dusty Rychart and Travarus Bennett were among the players cut, along with Lou Roe, Albert White, Sean Kennedy, Trevor Gaines and Nate Huffman, who was on the roster but never attended camp.