Kevin Garnett’s return to the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday evening will snap a long eight-year absence. While nearly 39-years old, Garnett will give the Timberwolves with something the organization has missed since the day he was traded.
Growing up, I didn’t have cable for the majority of my childhood. My dad finally cracked when I entered the seventh grade.
Back in those days, the Timberwolves would broadcast 15-25 games every season on the local channels. Most times, that would be the only time I would watch television. The local channels normally played junk, anyway.
The games happened to be mostly on Friday and Saturday nights. I would get popcorn or Little Debbie Swiss cake rolls and a soda for the game. I would be downstairs with the door shut so no one could bother me. There, I would sit on the floor in front of the television for two hours and watch the Timberwolves play. After the game was over, I would reenact moments from the game on my Fisher Price hoop or, when that broke, a wastebasket.
Hell, when my dad splurged for a SportCourt, I would lower the rim to eight and a half feet just to dunk like Garnett. It pissed my dad off, too.
One thing that always stuck in my head after every game was seeing how hard Garnett played. Back in this day, I even used to read the newspaper more than I do now and I even write for one. I guess when you’re close to it, you become more interested.
Garnett brought the fiercest attitude to the game of basketball I have ever seen. He wears all his emotions on his sleeve, something coaches don’t really like players doing today, but that’s what made him “KG”, “The Big Ticket”, and “The Kid”.
Since he was traded to Boston, a lot of people got on him, particularly fans. They would call him “a fake, tough guy.” Those people must have not seen him in Minnesota. Of course he talked a lot of trash, but he was able to mentally manipulate opponents to the point where they would become almost useless. Once that happened, Garnett would let his talents take over.
His years in Minnesota were amazing and I always believed he was the best player in the league for about a five or six year stretch of time. I know he only got Minnesota out of the first round one time in his first stint in Minnesota, but the best player doesn’t always win. There were many times were Garnett deferred to his teammates, and he was criticized for “being small” in big moments. I believe that’s true. He did defer too much, sometimes, but that’s who he was as a player. He was as unselfish as any superstar, ever.
Almost everyone will say Tim Duncan will always be better than Garnett because he has five championships and Garnett has only one, the one he won in Boston. But I can also make an argument that Garnett carried a team for 12 seasons while Duncan always had help, whether it was David Robinson or Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Garnett is also two years ahead of Duncan, in terms of career length. Garnett had accumulated 5,288 minutes before Duncan even stepped foot on an NBA floor. To this day, Garnett is miles ahead of Duncan in terms of minutes played, 49,764 to 45,125.
But it’s not about comparing greatness to greatness. It’s about Garnett returning to Minnesota.
When he puts on his No. 21 jersey for the first time in eight years, it will bring him all the way back to his rookie season in 1995. While he has very little tread left on his tires and it seems like he is physically and mentally worn out after 20 years in the NBA, I could see Wednesday night as a bit of a rejuvenation period for Garnett and his career. He’ll be back in Target Center, a place where he put up nine seasons of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, and many, many memorable performances.
Since going to Brooklyn, Garnett has been a shell of a shell of himself from his last two seasons in Boston, even though his minutes have significantly been reduced since being traded by Minnesota.
Once my family got cable, I still watched Timberwolves’ games, but my focused wasn’t solely centered on them. I started paying attention to other teams, especially after the Timberwolves traded Garnett. I watched games even after the Garnett-era, but it wasn’t the same. There was an empty feeling inside, like something was missing.
Once Minnesota entered its second “rebuilding” phase, I had renewed hope. All of the hope went away when I saw how bad David Kahn was for the franchise. I feel like none of it would have happened on Garnett’s watch.
It was clear Minnesota didn’t have a leader. I used to think Kevin Love’s monster stat lines meant something, but it never did. In the back of my mind I compared every “star” player the Timberwolves have had since Garnett (Al Jefferson and Love), but I knew it wasn’t fair to them and that it was a disgrace to Garnett.
The crowd will be going crazy when he steps on the floor Wednesday night. The fans will welcome back a hero, an icon, and a legend with open arms.
It will be a special night.
But it will never be what it used to be.