It was such a nice story, evoking nostalgia and promise in the same swoop of the pen.
Flip Saunders employed all of his charm to woo Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota, offering trunks of money, a voice at practice, a place in the starting lineup and a future in franchise decision-making.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves were desperate for validation and credibility, Flip’s seduction of the greatest player in franchise history made sense. Then everything changed.
Flip passed away, leaving Garnett without his greatest champion and intermediary in the organization.
Garnett played a career-low 15 minutes a game in a career-low 38 games, undermining his ability to lead by example on the court.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to run his basketball operation.
In the old Wolves world order, every former employee of any pedigree had a virtual lifetime contract, renewable whenever convenient for the employee.
Flip’s passing and the arrival of the best cache of young talent in Wolves history, and perhaps the most authoritative coach in franchise history, converted the Wolves from the best version of their old self under Flip to the New Wolves Order.
Flip built relationships and sometimes avoided conflict. For him, Garnett could be the ideal partner — a superstar who was also taskmaster and intimidator.
Thibodeau likely wants his voice to be the loudest in every practice and huddle. He is the alpha male in the organization, and by nature of his personality needs little help yelling out defensive instructions or wielding power.
If Garnett is not going to become a part-owner or assistant general manager or loud voice at the end of the bench, he has no role in the New Wolves Order. He’s no longer even needed to sell tickets or lead marketing campaigns. That falls to Karl-Anthony Towns, a fast-rising star who is also as likeable and marketable as was the young Garnett, before he grew quills.
Channeled rage made Garnett great, and would make him an uncomfortable member of the NWO.
Now is the right time for Garnett to move on. The method by which that would happen is a matter for Taylor and Garnett. It would be best for the Wolves if Garnett simply retired, but let’s not go so far as to say that Garnett owes that to the Wolves. He carried the franchise for a decade, brought the Wolves their greatest success and had to be coaxed into accepting the trade to Boston.
Taylor (the owner of the Star Tribune, by the way) needs to do whatever it takes to buy out Garnett, to give Thibodeau a locker room where his voice will be the loudest.
If Garnett departs, the NBA and Minnesota sports will officially be changed places. The NBA could find Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the same Hall of Fame class. Minnesota will have experienced the retirements of Torii Hunter, Jerry Kill and Garnett, and career-threatening injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.
Garnett would retire as the only player in NBA history to reach at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks. He may also be the rare NBA superstar to have punched multiple teammates during practices over the course of his career.
Perhaps Garnett could have written a sweeter ending to his career than a buyout, but old knees don’t understand story lines.
Garnett was great, and he should have played his entire career in Minnesota, and nothing guarantees a happy ending, not even when a superstar comes home.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On