CHICAGO – Will he or won’t he?
Now that Kevin Garnett is back with the Timberwolves and his emotional, winning debut has come and gone, that’s the question regarding a 38-year-old veteran and whether he’ll play games on consecutive nights.
The first such set of games arrives Friday at Chicago and Saturday at home against Memphis. Given Wednesday’s return — winning in every way — he will definitely play at Target Center against the Grizzlies.
Wolves coach Flip Saunders said Thursday that he will make the decision on a case-by-case basis — the Wolves have seven sets of back-to-back games remaining — based on the schedule and how Garnett’s body feels.
“It all depends,” Saunders said.
He said a decision will be made before Friday’s game depending on Garnett’s health that day.
If there’s a choice between the two, you can be sure he will play home games over a road game.
Garnett’s former team, the Brooklyn Nets, preferred he not play back-to-back games, but he did so four times this season and eight times in an injury-shortened 2013-14 season. He never played fewer than 12 minutes or more than 28 in any of those games.
Saunders played Garnett nearly 19 minutes as his starting power forward in Wednesday’s 97-77 victory over Washington after he refused to divulge exactly how many minutes he has decided he will play him. After the game, Saunders said he expects Garnett to play anywhere from 15 to 21 minutes a night.
Garnett made two of seven shots from the field, had eight rebounds (all defensive), two assists, two blocked shots, a steal and a foul.
“He can have an impact,” Saunders said, referring to Garnett’s measured minutes. “Listen, when he came here, we sat down and talked. He knows we’re developing young players. That’s what he wants to help do, and he also knows he doesn’t want to gobble up a lot of their minutes. We’ll keep him in that range and every day we’ll see how his body feels. We don’t want to tax his body.”
Then-Nets coach Jason Kidd proposed the no back-to-back policy before last season, hoping to prolong Garnett’s career and keep him healthy. Coach and player discussed the issue before training camp and at the time, Garnett told reporters the discussions “didn’t go too well” because he wants to play every game and wanted to establish chemistry with his new teammates, but he also said he was “totally understanding” about Kidd’s intentions.
Saunders said Garnett is open to not playing one of two games if his body tells him not to do so. “Either way, he’s all aboard,” Saunders said.
• Veteran guard Gary Neal played nearly 28 minutes Wednesday after he missed Monday’s game at Houston because of a sprained ankle and is expected to play against the Bulls. He’s listed by the team as probable while injured Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel remain listed as out.
• Asked Wednesday for his impressions of rookie forward Adreian Payne, Garnett went blank for a few moments. “The kid from Michigan State, right?” he asked. “OK, you’ve just got to bear with me because we don’t use names in the locker room like you use. We use AP, AB, Wigs, like everybody has a nickname. He’s very promising, very high basketball IQ. He’s very promising. He fits right in with this group.”
• Wolves rookie Zach LaVine and his young teammates got a taste Wednesday of what the playoffs might be like when they reach them someday. “This is what Gary was telling me,” LaVine said, referring to Neal, “that the [NBA] Finals always are like this.”