Upbeat Garnett ready to turn things around

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett sat down into a folding chair, smiled and was downright playful as he spoke in an upbeat tone about the team surrounding him.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett sat down into a folding chair, smiled and was downright playful as he spoke in an upbeat tone about the team surrounding him.

Despite coming off one of the most disappointing seasons of his 11-year career, and with few marquee moves made to turn things around, Garnett said he hasn't felt this good about his Minnesota Timberwolves in years.

It was a surprising attitude for the former league MVP, who stewed down the stretch last season and lamented missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

He put his demeanor heading into this season on par with 2003-04, when the Timberwolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell and made a run to the Western Conference finals.

, 1996-97 when Stephon Marbury was brought in and his first year in the league in 1995-96.


"I can't remember being this excited or this enthused since the '04 season," Garnett said. "I can remember when we drafted Steph, being excited, obviously my rookie year, but I'm really excited to get going."

The superstar paid only lip service to last season's 33-49 disaster, calling it "pure (crap)" and saying that it caused him to do some serious soul-searching in the offseason.

"Last year was such a big disappointment that it's fueling me to go back and really, really remember why I play," Garnett said. "Remember why we all love to play this game and why we all play with emotion."

Garnett plays with more emotion than most, but he spent the final games of the season on the bench with his eyes glossed over while the Wolves tested their younger players.

That, of course, led to more trade rumors. Basketball boss Kevin McHale made it clear from the start that Garnett was untouchable, and made a few moves to improve the team.

McHale signed free agent point guard Mike James and drafted Villanova guard Randy Foye in the lottery, looking to shore up a perimeter that lacked scoring punch.

Other than that, it's the same Timberwolves that struggled so much last year.

"I've always said that as long as this team is trying to win and going in the right direction, I'm going to be here," Garnett said. "My goal is to win. Not anything short of that. When I feel the organization is going in another direction, then it's time to move on.


"If they're going to make a move and move me or do whatever, that's what it is. It's not going to make any difference on when I touch the floor and how I go at it."

For now, the face of the franchise is happy. Instead of training at home in California, he spent a lot of time at the team's practice facility in the Twin Cities scrimmaging with his new teammates.

"One of the things I wanted to do this summer was start early, just playing pickup and messing around and get to really, really know everybody," Garnett said. "Not just from a personal standpoint off the floor, but on the floor as well.

"It's been really, really good. I can't really get y'all to understand not only how big it was for us to get around each other, but also how well it has been. Guys have really, really opened up and we're working on something special."

That kind of talk is in stark contrast to media day last season, when a sullen Garnett lamented the loss of veteran Sam Cassell and didn't express much optimism for the following season.

It's clear that this year, he likes what he sees.

Entering his 12th season at the age of 30, the ultra-competitive Garnett said James reminds him "of a smaller version of me," and he raved about Foye, who dominated the Las Vegas summer league.

"Guys just taking ownership of the team and having it be their team," McHale said. "I've been very happy with the guys and their work the last seven, eight weeks. They're working out together and they're forming a bond.


"Chemistry is such an important part to our game. If you have it, you find a way to win games. If you don't have it, you find a way to lose games and we found ways to lose games last year."

The team's 33 victories were the lowest total since 1996, but Garnett wasn't interested in looking back during the team's media day on Monday. He is too excited about what lies ahead.

"We're taking strides towards it, not just talking about it," Garnett said. "We've been in here going after it since like July, just being around each other. I think it's going to be a big plus. I think it's definitely going to help."

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