Patrick Reusse: There's no way to adeptly shoot at a sacred cow

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 20, 2008 - 8:15 AM

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor didn't start the tiff with Kevin Garnett, but he can't win this war of words.

Take my word on it. We spend so much of our lives kissing up to people -- in business, in journalism -- that there's nothing more cleansing than to throw a little candor at a sacred cow.

Heck, I had the time of my life poking fun at Herb Brooks and his hockey team after the 1980 Winter Olympics. While the rest of the country saw it as a triumph for capitalism over Communism, the view here was that it was merely an example of what a hockey team can do with a hot goalie.

So, don't back off, Glen Taylor. If you want to take a shot at Kevin Garnett, go for it. First, you paid for the privilege, and second, if this is now a feud, you didn't fire the first shots.

As the Timberwolves owner, Taylor paid Garnett's salary for 12 seasons, and those payments totaled $186 million.

And then Garnett was traded to Boston this summer, giving him a chance to capture the NBA title that he couldn't win here as the star of the Western Conference's No. 1 seed in 2004.

At his opening news conference, Garnett said of his departure from the Timberwolves:

"I guess at the end of the day, I'm loyal to a point where I feel, if someone's loyal to me, then I have no problem with that. But when that changes, it's pretty easy for me [to leave].''

To make sure Taylor had not missed the point, Garnett mentioned a few days into his Celtics' tenure how great it was to be a member of a first-class organization.

There's no argument that Taylor's basketball operation has been capable of messing up a one-car parade, but here's the deal:

The first smart thing Danny Ainge did as Boston's basketball boss was to deliver Garnett and Ray Allen to Paul Pierce for this season. Until the Garnett deal, he was being bad-mouthed in Boston more virulently than his old Celtics pal Kevin McHale was being torched in Minnesota.

And then just like that, KG was traded on July 31, and his new team was first-class and the organization that had paid him an average stipend of $15.5 million per season for 12 seasons was dirt under his sneakers.

Does this give us a hint as to why Taylor has been carrying around some resentment for 7 1/2 months and it came out Tuesday?

The "tanking'' controversy started with a question from Star Tribune reporter Kent Youngblood. The best evidence of this was the fact Garnett was held out of the final six games in 2006 and did not play in the final five games of 2007.

"I don't like that so much,'' Taylor said of this observation. "It was more like, I'd say, KG tanked it [last season] ... The other guys still wanted to play, but it sure changed the team.''

The first reaction is to remember that the Wolves had told Garnett last April that he would play reduced minutes in these final games. That can be offered as irrefutable evidence that the organization's intent was to "tank'' the final few games.

Garnett turned down that plan. This time, it was his decision to sit the final five games while having a minor injury checked.

You can call this KG's pride coming to the front -- that he wasn't going to play unless he was allowed to contribute his full effort (and minutes) to the case. Or, you could say this was KG's ego -- not wanting to play 20 to 25 minutes and hurt his stats line.

What we can be sure of is this: No one in the NBA has a chance to win a P.R. battle with Garnett.

Right, Randy Wittman?

"KG's reputation ... that's who he is,'' the Wolves coach said. "I haven't coached a guy that played harder or practiced harder ... We would be a lot better off in this league if we had more people like that, trust me.''

And see, Glen, there's the problem.

It might be cathartic to take a shot at a sacred cow, but you can't win. I mean, 28 years later, I'm still waiting for them to make a movie based on my theory of Herbie Brooks and the Lake Placid hockey gold called, "Hot Goalie on Ice.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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