NBA: Timberwolves acquire Garnett
By Andy Greder St. Paul Pioneer Press Like Torii Hunter and Randy Moss before him, Kevin Garnett will have a Minnesota homecoming. The Timberwolves reunited with Garnett before Thursday's NBA trade deadline when the greatest player in franchise h...
By Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Like Torii Hunter and Randy Moss before him, Kevin Garnett will have a Minnesota homecoming.
The Timberwolves reunited with Garnett before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline when the greatest player in franchise history agreed to waive his no-trade clause with the Brooklyn Nets.
Garnett, 38, a future hall of famer who played his first 12 professional seasons in Minnesota, is coming back to the team where he won a Most Valuable Player award and was a perennial all-star. The Wolves sent Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn as compensation.
“When you think of Timberwolves, you think of Kevin Garnett,” Wolves rookie Andrew Wiggins said. “That’s the first thing that comes up.”
Accepting the trade means the 6-foot-11 veteran will shift from a team with a chance to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference to the team with the worst record in the West.
Though the Nets are just 21-31, they are tied for ninth in the East. The Wolves are 11-42.
In the exchange of Young for Garnett, the Wolves receive less on-court production. Young, 26, is 12 years younger than Garnett and is averaging almost eight more points per game (14.3 to 6.8) this season.
One explanation for the trade is that Young has a $9.9 million player option for next season and his future with the Wolves couldn’t be agreed upon.
Garnett is due $12 million this season, the third and final year on a $36 million deal.
Despite Garnett’s near career-low numbers, he and the Wolves reportedly are working on a deal beyond this season.
To get Young as part of the Kevin Love-to-Cleveland trade, the Wolves exchanged him for a 2015 first-round draft pick. The Wolves received the pick from Cleveland, which was once Miami’s pick, and gave it to Philadelphia, Young’s former team.
While Garnett will be more of a player emeritus with the Wolves, given his current lack of production, his value will be high as a mentor to the young Wolves core.
“He’s going to bring a lot of toughness, not just in games, but in practice, and that’s going to help the young guys to step up,” Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said. “It’s going to be a lesson every day, so we are going to be ready for him.”
Saunders has spoken highly this season about the growth Garnett showed as a 19-year-old rookie when the Wolves coach has referenced the development of rookie Andrew Wiggins.
“I’ve watched how he plays, how he acts, and from what I hear, he’s a great teammate,” Wiggins said.” He’s loved over here, so I’m excited to play with him.”
Garnett’s no-trade clause has been a sticking point in the past. Garnett, who is known for his fierce competitiveness, has maintained loyalties to his current teams and has been reluctant to change during his 20-year career.
Before Garnett was traded from Minnesota to Boston in 2007, he declined multiple trade requests to stay with the Wolves.
The Wolves drafted Garnett out of high school with fifth pick in the 1995 draft. With Garnett, the Wolves made eight straight playoff appearances, including a run to the Western Conference finals in 2004.
They then missed the playoff three straight seasons (2004-07) during Garnett’s prime. The franchise finally convinced him to waive his no-trade clause.
Garnett went on to win an NBA championship with the Celtics in 2008. He went to Brooklyn before the 2013-14 season.
“Playing against him was something special,” Rubio said.” You could see that players were afraid of him. That means he was tough but he was a winner.”
Garnett’s return to the Wolves could be a box-office boon.
He has received a boisterous reception from fans in his returns to Target Center with the Celtics and Nets. The Wolves’ attendance currently ranks 29th in the 30-team league.
Moss’ return to the Vikings in 2010 boosted fan support, and Hunter’s return to the Twins this season is expected to provide a similar upswing.
Garnett’s return will be a reunion with his former coach in Saunders and a former teammate and mentor in Sam Mitchell, who is now a Wolves assistant coach.
Saunders coached Garnett from 1995 to 2005, and Mitchell played with Garnett from 1995 to 2002.
“Talking with the guys here on the staff that were with him when he was here, they said great things about him and talk about how he was a leader of the team and took care of everyone,” Rubio said. “If that’s true in everything they said, it’s going to be great.”
The move also helps set the table for Garnett’s post-playing plans. In November, he told Yahoo Sports that he would like to buy the Timberwolves one day.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor, however, said this trade is about the present.
“Right now it’s just that he’s a player,” Taylor said. “But I think that opens up that (part ownership) possibility just because at the time he retires, he’ll have to think about that.”
Garnett has earned $327 million in his 20 seasons in the NBA. The Wolves were valued at $625 million, ranking 29th out of 30 teams, according to Forbes in January.
Saunders responded to Garnett’s comments, saying at that time that he would welcome possibly working with Garnett in a front-office capacity once his playing days are done. Saunders said Garnett would not be best-suited for a coaching job because of his competitiveness.
Garnett holds multiple franchise records in Minnesota: most career points (19,041), field goals (7,575), rebounds (10,542), assists (4,146), blocks (1,576) and steals (1,282).
This season, Garnett has averaged 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in a career-low 20.3 minutes per game -- well below his career averages of 18.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Garnett averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his MVP season with the Wolves in 2003-04.
Before Moss and Hunter, Garnett was an icon in Minnesota, and his reach seemed to be worldwide.
“Even when I was in Europe, in Spain, I knew (of the Wolves) because KG was here,” Rubio said. “That means a lot, and it’s an honor to play with him.”
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