LAS VEGAS – Maybe the most meaningful moment during the Timberwolves’ Las Vegas Summer League stay so far did not come from a game televised all around on NBA TV inside UNLV’s big arena, but rather from a modest morning shootaround Monday before they lost to Utah 91-82 in a nightcap game.
That’s where newly re-signed Kevin Garnett and reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins ran with new teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones as well as Zach LaVine and Adreian Payne, too.
That’s also where the past met the future.
“You could say that,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins came to Las Vegas on Sunday to work with trainer Drew Hanlen there and spend some time with his teammates, but won’t play any Vegas games in a summer where he’s spending time in Toronto, Los Angeles and the Twin Cities.
Garnett was in Las Vegas over the weekend, where he met with Wolves General Manager Milt Newton and other staff members to sign a new two-year contract that will pay him $8 million a season. He stuck around and practiced with the Wolves’ summer leaguers, running the floor with a collection of first- and second-year players as well as aspiring free agents.
“I knew he was coming by, but I didn’t know he’d participate like he did,” Wolves summer league coach Ryan Saunders said. “He’s unbelievable. Everybody knows how we feel about him in Minnesota, about how big of a professional he is and the kind of example he sets for these young guys.”
Toward the end of Monday’s morning shoot, Garnett chatted with Wiggins for a few minutes, then went and offered Towns some pointers at the other end of the court before he finished up by talking with LaVine, who didn’t play Monday night because of a lacerated finger he injured on the rim while trying to dunk over the Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. on Friday.
“Just talking; you know, just catching up,” Wiggins said. “That’s great that he’s coming back. I enjoyed my first year with him and I think it’s only going to get better. He has more wisdom to share with me and the team. He’s one of the all-time greats, a legend, one of the best to ever do it so whatever he does, whatever he does physically or how he says stuff emotionally, that’s going to touch us and motivate us to play better.”
It has been — and will continue to be — a busy summer for Wiggins.
On Friday, he took the ceremonial torch from his mother, former Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins, and passed it to fellow Canadian Steve Nash, who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremonies for the Pan-Am Games in Toronto. Next month, he expects to play for Canada at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico.
“It’s definitely busy, but I’m prepared for it,” Wiggins said. “I’ve gotten a lot of rest.”
He has also worked on his skills — ball handling, shooting — as well as his body, which he knows needs to get bigger and stronger.
“Do I look stronger?” he asked, smiling and flexing his biceps. “I don’t know, I’m trying. I’m trying my best. It’d be good to gain weight. I’m trying but I got a fast metabolism.
He promises he will be better than the rookie who clearly was the best among his peers in the league last season.
“I can make a big improvement,” Wiggins said. “I think I’ll be better in every area, whether defensively or offensively.”
He will return for his second season to a team that added through the draft backup point guard Jones and, in Towns, a No. 1 overall pick who blocks shots and posts up like a 7-footer but passes like a guard.
A big man who can find a teammate slashing to the basket? Sounds like Wiggins might like that.
He smiled at the mention.
“Definitely, a big man who passes like he passes …” Wiggins said. “He does it all. He can make plays for others. He can score the basketball. He’s a great rebounder. He does everything.”
Garnett is the franchise’s past signed on for another two years to help guide Wiggins and Towns to the future.
“That’s a good past,” said former Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, a summer league visitor who watched as the Wolves ended their morning shoot, “and a good future.”
• Towns had 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, nine fouls and two assists in 31 minutes Monday. The Wolves are 1-2 in summer league play and likely will begin the tournament portion of the Vegas tournament Wednesday rather than having a bye that day.
• Wolves owner Glen Taylor watched Monday’s game courtside with his wife Becky, LaVine, Wiggins, assistant coach Sam Mitchell and General Manager Milt Newton beside him. He came to Las Vegas for Tuesday’s Board of Governors meetings but came in a night early to watch his team.