NBA offenses weren't as explosive in the 2000s as they are today, but Flip Saunders, the late Timberwolves coach, liked to score and had Kevin Garnett as the fulcrum of his attack. KG had the size, quickness, midrange game and destructive drives to the hoop.
"[Saunders] had a great playbook," former Wolves forward Wally Szczerbiak said. "We were a real high-percentage, highly efficient team. We had great spacing. We had specialized plays when a guy got going. Flip knew how to milk the hot hand."
I asked Szczerbiak last week how Garnett helped his game flourish, and I could hear Wally smile through the telephone.
"I just think he helped me get a lot of open shots," Szczerbiak said. "He drew a lot of attention in the post. He got double-teamed a ton and it made the game easy for all of his teammates because of that."
Garnett on Saturday was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as part of a spectacular class that included Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. Garnett actually is part of the 2020 class, but that ceremony was delayed because of COVID-19.
Szczerbiak broke into the NBA in 1999-2000 at age 22. Garnett was a year older but was drafted out of high school and already had four years of experience under his belt and was ascending to an elite level as a player. Both were part of the best teams in Wolves history, including the 2003-2004 squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. It was Game 7 of the quarterfinals against Sacramento during which Garnett scored 32 points, pulled down 21 rebounds and added five blocks and four steals in one of his best games ever, Szczerbiak said.
Garnett scored 26,071 points in his career. That included a ridiculous four-year run from 2003-04 to 2006-07 in which he averaged 22.7 points and 13.3 rebounds. He played 12 seasons with the Wolves before joining Boston for six seasons and winning an NBA title there in 2008. He returned for five games in the 2014-15 season, then retired after a full season in 2016.
There were ups and downs and clashes with owner Glen Taylor about owing the team. One thing is undeniable: The drafting of Garnett on Taylor's watch in 1995 was the best decision made by the club. Garnett was productive, durable and played with passion.
"He was tough on me at times, and he was tough on rookies at times," Szczerbiak said, "but I just think our relationship blossomed when I made the All-Star team my third year. I think that garnered a lot of respect. And I think we continued to grow as teammates and the team continued to get better and it culminated with that Western Conference final."
Seimone, you're up next
Seimone Augustus was one of the driving forces on the Lynx as they sustained an WNBA dynasty. She was an eight-time All-Star who averaged 15.4 points in her career, and her 6,005 points are tied for ninth most in league history. She was named Finals MVP in 2011, the first of the four title years.
Augustus on Friday announced her retirement following a 15-year career. She is the Lynx's all-time leader in points scored, games played and minutes.
In a state starved to see its pro sports teams succeed, the Lynx did that many times over. And Augustus played a vital role in their enormous success. For that, Augustus should be the next local pro to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
We need to talk ...
Since the beginning of the shortened 2020 season, I have had face-to-face conversations with Twins players three times: Rich Hill last season, then Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios during spring training. And the Hill conversation only happened because we walked into PNC Park in Pittsburgh at the same time.
(Miguel Sano did lob a baseball at me during one spring batting practice, but I don't consider that communication.)
Media guidelines during the pandemic have kept reporters away from players. Communication now almost always happens via Zoom videos or phone calls. In this arrangement, it's challenging to cover a team that is doing well because there's an appetite for more stories yet less access. It's just as challenging to cover losing teams, like these current Twins, because you can't have multiple players articulate why they have the worst record in baseball.
Things could be changing soon, as reporters who are vaccinated might be allowed on the field before games. Then we can have more Twins players explain themselves.
More Sano in the forecast
An optimistic prediction: With nine of the Twins final 15 games in May at home, Miguel Sano will slowly come out of his funk (he homered Saturday). Yes, it's true, you can't fall down when you are already on the floor, but Sano will hit at least two more home runs before the month ends.
Vegas stays in the playoffs
The Wild played much better in April than it did in May. Minnesota was steamrolled at times by a motivated St. Louis team, and that is concerning. Las Vegas will play Kirill Kaprizov tough, limit scoring chances and win the playoff series in six games.
The 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions every Sunday.
LaVelle.Neal@startribune.com. • Twitter: @LaVelleNeal