Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have essentially spent a generation playing against each other, defining in their own way what an NBA power forward can be.
The Timberwolves’ game with San Antonio on Wednesday was the first between the two teams this season. And it could be among the last times Garnett and Duncan face off.
“Tim’s always been a fierce competitor,” Garnett said. “I’ve always respected his body of work. His accomplishments. Not just that, but the Spurs organization.’’
Both Garnett and Duncan are 39. Their career stats are strikingly similar.
“Epic, epic,” Garnett said of his career-long competition with Duncan. “He’s very fundamentally sound, has been for a long time. He’s very consistent.’’
Entering Wednesday, Garnett had 26,023 points, 11,422 defensive rebounds and 14,628 total rebounds. Duncan’s numbers were 26,211, 11,060 and 14,853.
“I treasure all the competitors I’ve played against,” said Garnett, who talked about matching up with Karl Malone, Rasheed Wallace and even Charles Barkley early in his career. But the Duncan-Garnett matchup is special to him.
“That’s what you want in this league, someone that you measure yourself up against,’’ he said.
Playing his entire career with the Spurs, Duncan has been a part of five NBA titles. Garnett had to go to Boston to win his ring. Duncan and the Spurs are in position to vie for another title. Garnett is acting as a mentor for a talented young Wolves team.
“Just two examples of unbelievable professionals doing what they do at a high level for a very long period of time,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
The next generation?
Could a rivalry as long as the Duncan-Garnett rivalry be brewing? Spurs wing Kawhi Leonard is already a star while Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins appears to be on the cusp. The two seem similar in their ability to defend and their capacity to score. They also share a reputation for being quiet.
“These two quiet guys are going to see each other, probably, for the next 10, 12 years,’’ Garnett said. “Although these guys are quiet, their games are monstrous. Their games speak volumes. … That should be a really good matchup for the future.’’
Tyus Jones, back with the Wolves after his six-game stint with the Idaho Stampede of the Development League, said the experience went as well as he could have hoped.
“You go down there trying to prove a point,” Jones said. “Trying to make a statement. I think I played pretty well down there.’’
Yes, he did. Playing the point for Idaho, Jones averaged 24.7 points, 35.2 minutes and 5.0 assists in his six games. He shot 48.7 percent overall and shot 42.6 percent on three-pointers.
Jones, who played 20 minutes Wednesday, had six points on 3-for-7 shooting with two assists, two steals, one rebound and one turnover. He scored his first NBA basket on a layup with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Because Jones played the point and Zach LaVine moved to shooting guard, veteran Kevin Martin did not play. Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said he talked with Martin about the need to get younger players more minutes. “It’s not the perfect situation,” Mitchell said. “KMart’s been great.’’