Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
Kevin Garnett will play a game at Target Center in a Wolves uniform for the first time since April 2007 tonight against former teammate Paul Pierce, former coach Randy Wittman and the Washington Wizards.
Talk about a reunion, all around.
"I was telling Flip, if we can get Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Prince and Kevin McHale to come through the doors tonight, it'll be a family affair," Garnett said at shootaround this morning. "I don't think that's likely. It'll be good to see Randy, good to see Paul, see the guys I'm familiar with."
And he'll say hello again to 19,000 of his closest friends.
The Wolves are selling standing-room only tickets for $25 each and have scattered seats still available for Garnett's return.
Flip Saunders on Tuesday said he expected the biggest reception ever heard at Target Center come tonight.
Asked Wednesday what he expects, Garnett said, "You know what? I haven't even thought about that. I've been thinking about the game and preparing for that. I'm figuring it to be a great atmosphere, a playoff-type atmosphere and I'm looking forward to it. I'm just hoping to win the game."
Today's shootaround seems a little louder, chattier than others.
"I haven't been here, I don't know what their shootarounds were like before," Garnett said. "I just know I'm trying to bring some communication and some things I've been successful with throughout my journey and hope they pick up on it."
Garnett, of course, will start at power forward for the Wolves' tonight.
Kevin Garnett's return to Minnesota gets real on Tuesday, when he will practice with his new teammates for the first time and be introduced at a 3 p.m. Target Center news conference.
Garnett needed a long weekend to take care of matters before making the move from Brooklyn back to Minnesota, Wolves coach Flip Saunders said before this morning's shootaround in Houston.
He said Garnett could have made his Wolves' debut tonight against the Rockets and old mentor/pal Kevin McHale and that is wasn't mandatory that Garnett's first game back comes at Target Center.
But he said it'll work out just fine that Garnett's first game back is Wednesday against Washington and his former Wolves coach Randy Wittman and former Boston teammate Paul Pierce.
Garnett has been home in L.A. over the weekend at his Malibu summer place. Just by coincidence, he was in Los Angeles when he waived his no-trade clause and the deal was made on Thursday because Brooklyn practiced there Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for their first game back from All-Star break against the Lakers.
The Wolves acquired Garnett by trading away veteran Thad Young, who reported to the Nets the next day and played Friday night against the Lakers.
Without Garnett, the Wolves beat Phoenix on Friday night and tonight meet the Rockets, James Harden and former Wolves forward Corey Brewer.
They'll do so with Shabazz Muhammad (ruptured finger ligament), Anthony Bennett (sprained ankle), Robbie Hummel (broken hand) and Gary Neal (sprained ankle) all out injured. Muhammad, Bennett and Hummel all are power-forward options.
That leaves Saunders just two real options at power forward until Garnett arrives Tuesday: Center Gorgui Dieng and newly acquired Adreian Payne.
Saunders said he might have to play rookies Andrew Wiggins and Glenn Robinson III some at power forward, if necessary.
"It's OK," he said. "We'll get through."
Saunders wouldn't disclose at Monday's shootaround who will start at power forward that night.
If he starts Dieng beside Nikola Pekovic in the frontcourt, then Saunders doesn't have a legitimate backup center to bring off the bench.
Neal, who sought a buyout when the Wolves acquired him from Charlotte, was limping noticeably at shootaround. He injured his ankle in Sunday's practice -- what he called a "freak" injury on the last play of pracitce -- and when asked how it was Monday, he said, "Bad."
One more thing from this morning:
Wiggins turns 20 tonight and Saunders turns 60.
"I'd rather be 19," Wiggins said. "I miss it."
If you're a believer in signs, stars aligning and such things...today's also the birthday of Ohio State freshman star D'Angelo Russell, a possible pick by the Wolves with a top 5 lottery pick in this summer's draft.
“I’d rather be 19,” Wiggins said. “I miss it.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves and Suns will tip off momentarily.
Here are a few pre-game notes:
--Kevin Garnett is slated to have his post-trade physical in Los Angeles. He will arrive in Minneapolis Monday, practice with the team Tuesday and make his debut Wednesday.
--Starting at power forward tonight: Anthony Bennett, who gets his third start this season. The time is now for Bennett to show he’s ready to bring it 100 percent every night.
--Shabazz Muhammad will be able to play despite a sore finger on his shooting hand.
--We should all get to see the Wolves debut of Adreian Payne and Gary Neal tonight.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Kevin Garnett has not yet returned to Target Center, but the buzz about his pending return continues.
At this morning’s shoot-around we had a chance to talk to Zach LaVine about Garnett’s return, and he was, as you might expect, effusive.
“It’s definitely going to be intense,” he said. “I’m definitely looking to learn a lot from him on and off the court, see how he works. He’s a future Hall of Famer. I want to get to where he is someday.’’
Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio continued to talk about how excited he was about the trade. “Yesterday I watch TV and it was Timberwolves, all over. So that was great. He put us back on a bright spot, and we want to take advantage of that.’’
Rubio said he can tell how excited the city is. “I was walking yesterday on the street and [the fans] were all talking, ‘Oh, KG is back!’ ‘’ Rubio said. “And I said, ‘Yes!’ They were so excited. So that’s great.’’
Here are some other anecdotes gathered this morning.
--Even more KG: Rubio said as a kid, when playing NBA basketball on video games, he always chose to be the Timberwolves because of Garnett. He admitted to piling up a lot of cyber assists to Garnett while doing so. “I hope I can give him more on the court,’’ he said.
--Whoops: When asked about one of his strongest Garnett memories, Rubio smiled: “He’s going to be mad at me, but I remember one play where Pau Gasol dunked on him,” he said.
--Meanwhile, LaVine imparted a few more anecdotes from his weekend in New York for All Star weekend. First, he said he carried his dunk contest-winning trophy with him on the plane, carrying it in a sack like a bag of groceries so no one would recognize it. “I never left it out of my sight,’’ he joked.
His exposure in the dunk contest certainly made him recognizable in New York. “I got some crazy requests,” he said. “I was walking around and [CNN anchor] Wolf Blitzer actually reacted to me like I should have reacted to him. He was like, ‘Let me have a picture.’ I was like, ‘Man why do you want a picture of me?’ … I was like, ‘Man, you’re Wolf Blitzer, why do you want an autograph and a picture from me?’ ‘’
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you later tonight.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves recently finished up their morning shoot-around.
It was hoped that we’d be able to chat with forward Adreian Payne. But we’ll have to wait until later this afternoon to do that. The team wanted to wait until after Gary Neal had passes his physical.
Payne was on the court with the team and was talking with assistant coaches after the shoot-around ended. Neal was outside the Wolves locker room, greeting his new teammates.
So here are a couple nuggets to come out of shoot-around:
--With yet another move designed to get the team younger and build for the future, it’s natural to ask a veteran like Thad Young whether he feels his days in Minnesota are numbered. Of course, he wasn’t about to bite on that one. “I just continue to play basketball,” he said when asked if he wonders about being traded. “If it happens it happens. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about doing the job you’re supposed to do.’’
The acquisition of Payne has given the Wolves a number of players at the power forward position, including Young and Andrew Bennett. “We have a lot of big guys now, so hopefully I can help mentor some of these young guys,” Young said. “We lost two good players and we gained two good players. It is what it is. We just have to continue to go out and try to win basketball games.”
--Shabazz Muhammad was talking with reporters, and he was quick to predict a Zach LaVine victory in the upcoming Slam Dunk Contest over All Star Weekend after watching LaVine practice his dunks. “It was some crazy stuff, stuff I haven’t seen,” he said. “And I’ve been watching the dunk contest a long time.’’
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you before the game.
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