Kevin Garnett will retire in Minnesota
By Stephen Litel
Unfortunately, it has become commonplace: As each and every loss mounts for the Timberwolves, the cameras naturally shift from the action on the court to Kevin Garnett watching from the sidelines in the final moments. The cameras capture Garnett looking confused, mad beyond belief or just plain numb.
These are the shots that people around the NBA nation see nightly, fueling the speculation that The Big Ticket has finally had enough and will leave the Twin Cities. Before the trade deadlines of the past two seasons, Timberwolves fans—along with fans of potentially new Garnett teams—have anticipated the news of his departure.
As the Timberwolves playoff chances slim at best, Kevin Garnett was absolutely brilliant to start the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds at the half. Garnett looked like a man on a mission, almost as if to say to his teammates "We're either going back to the playoffs or we're going down with me firing away."
Yet, the first half was a microcosm of the Timberwolves entire 2006-07 season. Garnett was stellar, the Timberwolves as a team played nearly as well as possible... and they still trailed by four at the half.
So, why do I believe that Garnett will retire as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves? Is it wishful thinking? Do I have some insider information that I'm not divulging? Or could it be complete naiveté and stupidity?
Ten minutes remain in the fourth quarter and the Timberwolves are down 69-86 and Garnett re-enters the game. Initially when I saw this, I was screaming through my television at Coach Wittman. I thought Wittman was going to burn KG out, especially because of the fact that this game with Phoenix was the first game of a back-to-back for Minnesota as they travel to Sacramento Wednesday night.
Now, 17-point leads come and go quickly in the NBA, but unless Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Raja Bell all blew out their knees in the same game, the Wolves had no chance at a comeback. As Garnett received his final instructions from Coach Wittman while taking off his warm-up shirt, he had a smile on his face. As he stepped onto the floor to sub in, the smile remained and the cameras caught a different picture of KG.
He was relaxed.
Playing this final stint of the evening with a lineup of Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, Ricky Davis and Craig Smith alongside him, he moved the ball, ran the offense and took his shots when they were there. Garnett did not seem to just be going through the motions. There was a specific reason that Coach Wittman substituted him in... and why Garnett allowed himself to be sent back in.
Resigned to the fate of this year's team—yet another lottery pick in the draft—the pressure is off. Although I do not believe that the Timberwolves are intentionally "tanking" games in order to better their lottery standings, they are looking towards the future. Ticket knows that if he goes to another team he will either have to take an enormous pay cut or that his new team would be in a similar situation as he is in with the Timberwolves. That imaginary team would need to trade some of their best assets in order to acquire Garnett therefore creating a "grass is not always greener" scenario for Garnett.
Therefore, he has accepted his place in the NBA landscape. He knows—as unfortunate as it may be for someone with the career he has had—that helping to continue the development of Foye, McCants and Smith are his best chance to ever even sniff a playoff berth again. Not to mention that the Wolves will also be adding that lottery pick this summer.
Garnett already has a close relationship with Rashad McCants and it is confirmed on the court whenever they see time together. He goes out of his way at times to get the second-year player going, helping to build his confidence. Throughout the entire season, Garnett has been the first person to praise both of the team's rookies, Randy Foye and Craig Smith, even calling himself a fan of theirs.
As someone who has spent time in the Wolves locker room before and after each home game this season, I have not seen the "wounded superstar" that the media paints Garnett out to be. I have seen someone who would obviously love to win each and every game his team plays, but also someone who knows his situation and has accepted it. He sees the three young players each and every day and believes in them. Although they may reach their peak as Garnett is nearing the end of his career—or in a worst case scenario, after he retires—he is willing to take the gamble, hoping to accelerate their development.
By Stephen Litel