Kevin Garnett’s return to Minnesota a perfect ending

Kevin Garnett’s disdain for the Timberwolves was once so apparent that his tenure with the team was an off-limits subject.


Kevin Garnett’s disdain for the Minnesota Timberwolves was so apparent in the years after he was traded to the Celtics that his tenure with the team that drafted him out of high school was an off-limits subject. He resisted talking about those years during which he emerged as the face of a franchise that enjoyed little success.

He was the Timberwolves. He was brother in-law to Jimmy Jam of the Minnesota-based R&B band The Time. And then he asked owner Glen Taylor for an extension in 2007 that would have ensured he remain in Minnesota throughout his career. Taylor instructed general manager Kevin McHale to trade Garnett.

And well, we know what happened next.

So the return of Garnett to Minnesota is beyond improbable and one of the few feel-good stories in a league filled with players demanding trades to big-market teams and/or more successful franchises. Garnett was never comfortable in Brooklyn. He tried, but when the Nets showed no interest in re-signing close buddy Paul Pierce, it became a lonely place.

The Timberwolves have been insignificant since Garnett left, having attempted to rebuild four times. Many of their lottery picks, such as Wesley Johnson, Jonny Flynn, and Derrick Williams, were wasted.

Kevin Garnett is the most successful player in Minnesota Timberwolves history — and it’s not even close. A look at some of the franchise categories he leads, along with the next-closest players:

They needed Garnett. They needed fan support. They needed to invigorate a region that has mostly considered the Timberwolves little more than a youthful team that will eventually lose a game. Their acquisition of Garnett just before the NBA trade deadline a week and a half ago was more for image and perception — more for the off-court effect of Garnett’s presence than his contributions on the court.

Minnesota is headed for another draft lottery. But the development of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, and even Anthony Bennett could be enhanced by even a short time playing with Garnett.

“I will say it does feel like full circle,” he said. “But coming back I feel like I have not only something to give but I’m experienced. I’ve seen different organizations on how they do things. Hopefully one day in the near future, I don’t know — the next five, 10 years — I’m into management, I’m into ownership, and I want to experience some of those same things if not bring those same things to whatever franchise I’m dealing with. If I was going to waive my no-trade [clause] it was going to be just for this. It wasn’t going to be . . . I know you heard the talks of me and Doc [Rivers] getting back together, I had no added incentives to do that.

“I know these are the declining days of my playing days but I think I have so much more to bring. This is the perfect situation, this is full circle right here.”

The Target Center was sold out for his return game last Wednesday against Washington, with an injured Pierce sitting on the visitors’ bench screaming jokes during the Timberwolves’ win. Acquiring Garnett was the right move for GM and coach FlipSaunders. Garnett has so much to offer. During his time with the Celtics, he worked with several of the team’s younger big men, with one condition — they had to approach him. If you felt as if you had this NBA thing all figured out, Garnett had no need for you. But if you wanted help, Garnett would stay after practice and mentor.

“I’ll be honest, this is one of the reasons I even looked at this situation. This is one of the most talented groups on this team since the Timberwolves were assembled,” Garnett said. “The talent on here is endless — the potential obviously is the question, what it can be — but I feel they have the tools to be whatever they want to be for the future. I want to help with that transition.

“Beautiful roster, beautiful guys. Seeing the talent on here is refreshing, because they’re guys who will listen, who will work hard. The veteran is kind of a lost art in the league right now, teams are going younger. The veteran who’s been in the league a long time is phasing out, but the only way these young guys get better is through some type of leadership, some type of guidance, and I’m hoping to bring that with this roster. It’s a very promising roster.”

What we feared as fans of the game was that Garnett would end his career as a shell of himself in Brooklyn, playing for a team where he had no roots, chasing the final playoff spot, scratching, fighting, and trash-talking younger and more talented players.

That is a ghastly image. This image of KG in the Timberwolves’ green and black, wearing the No. 21 jersey that the organization did not allow anyone to wear in his absence, and talking with Wiggins, LaVine, and Muhammad on the bench, makes us feel more heartened about a legend reaching the end of the line.

Thaddeus Young was all that was required to bring Garnett home — another sparkling deal by Saunders. He has also brought Wiggins to Minnesota via trade with Cleveland, and drafted LaVine. This latest Minnesota rebuild may finally reap benefits. The organization wanted Garnett to be a part of it.

The Timberwolves showed they couldn’t do much without him.

“I wasn’t really happy in how I left here. My goal since I’ve been in the league was to win a championship, and I wanted it to be here in the Twin Cities,” Garnett said. “I’ve always wanted that. I wanted to be a part of that the first time this franchise went over the hump, and I got a taste of that in the Western Conference [finals]. I’ve been thirsty ever since. Once you get that taste, you never lose that. To come, obviously, from playing in Boston and come back full circle back home now.

“I have experience and I have things that I can speak on. It’s perfect. This is a fairy tale, this is a perfect ending to it. This is how you want to do it. A lot of guys that want to come back to the origins don’t have the option to do it. I’m fortunate to do just that.”

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