The Timberwolves weight room, Tuesday morning. Wolves forward Anthony Bennett, still hobbled a bit because of his right leg injury, decided to do his lifting early. He thought he'd be the first player there.
When Bennett got there, Kevin Garnett was already well into his routine, so into the workout that Bennett hesitated before going up and introducing himself.
"That says a lot right there," Bennett said. "We kind of talked a little. He said he's basically like an older brother. He's going to teach us along the way."
An older brother with an intimidating stare, an obsession for detail, a dedication to the process. Long before he donned a sports jacket and spent a half-hour talking with the media about his return to Minnesota, Garnett was already beginning the business of making his presence felt.
"He's 38. He came in like 9:30 this morning," rookie Andrew Wiggins said. "First one in the gym."
And at practice?
"The intensity was a lot higher," Wiggins said. "It was more exciting. The way he talks, he just makes people want to do more."
• • •
Target Center main floor. This was not a practice with a lot of scrimmaging. Most of the time was spent acquainting Garnett with what the team was doing and preparing for Wednesday's game with Washington.
They were running a skeleton drill, working on getting back quickly on defense because Wizards guard John Wall loves to push the pace. Well, Garnett didn't think some were getting back quickly enough, particularly center Nikola Pekovic. And he said so. Much to the apparent delight, as it turns out, of Ricky Rubio.
"He yell at Pek twice already when I think nobody in his career yell at him to run back on defense," Rubio reported afterward. "So that's good. Everybody respects him."
Wolves assistant Sam Mitchell has seen this before. He loved it, too.
"But he was the first one to get back," Mitchell said of Garnett. "So he didn't just stand there and say, 'Get back because I said so.' He got back because it was the right thing to do. And he did it first."
Said Pekovic: "Everybody was excited. It's normal if you want to win that you are intense. I believe that. You got to be intense and trying to encourage everybody."
• • •
Midway through Tuesday's news conference. Funny how a story can get traction. Wolves coach Flip Saunders joked last week about how young players better have their phones turned off when Garnett enters the pregame locker room. Garnett was asked Tuesday how many phones he'd thrown in the toilet.
"I don't know where you get these stories from," he protested. But don't expect that Garnett, at 38, has turned into a teddy bear. "I like things to be professional at all times," he said. "I respect the locker room, and when you're on the court, it's about working and working hard. I won't give and won't settle for mediocre. That's my makeup. I don't think I'm going to change that. I hope that it rubs off on other guys here."
Perhaps it already is. Rookie Adreian Payne talked about Garnett's focus. When asked what he wanted to learn from Garnett, he said, "Everything."
• • •
After practice Tuesday. Rubio was talking about what it was like to finally be on the court with Garnett as a teammate. "I was kind of excited and afraid at the same time," he said. "He's KG, you know? … He's going to help a lot."
And he'll do it in a way that a coach cannot.
"I like to say coaches manage the game, they manage time, they manage players," Garnett said. "But when it comes to talent and putting the ball in the hole, that's all about a player and his IQ. I'm here to share my experiences, my journey and instill confidence in these young guys. Show them not just how to work, but how to work effectively."
Rubio, for one, is ready, joking that he needs to learn how to yell at players, too. "I don't know how to do it yet, I'm too nice," he said. "So I hope he can teach me that bad side."