Nearly a week after the trade was completed and almost eight hours before his official return, Kevin Garnett stood at center court at Target Center joking around with Wolves coach Flip Saunders and assistant Sam Mitchell.
Just like old times.
Fifteen minutes before noon, the Wolves had just finished shootaround. The arena would be filled to the gills in a few hours. Garnett was home and this was a family affair, with Wednesday's game against Washington providing a "This is Your Life" feel. Former Wolves coaches Randy Wittman and Don Zierden are with Washington, as is forward Paul Pierce, who won an NBA title with Garnett in Boston.
"I was telling Flip, we could get Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Prince and Kevin McHale to come through the door tonight, it would be a family affair," Garnett said, answering one of three questions he agreed to answer. "But I don't think that's likely."
4:22 p.m.: With cameras lined up along the hallway, Garnett entered the building via a secret-agent-like parking spot near Target Center's command center. Up the elevator, a couple turns, and he appeared, a bemused look on his face.
"What's up everybody?" he asked.
5:40: Multiple cameras filmed Garnett's empty locker.
6:45: The Wolves made their way down the hall past a line of screaming fans, took a right and ran into the arena. Garnett emerged as fans stood and screamed.
7:07: The lights dimmed. The crowd roared. The Wolves starters were introduced: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Andrew Wiggins. Then …
7:08: A video montage on the scoreboard played. Sparklers shot off the backboards. As the announcer intoned his name, Garnett ran onto the court, spun, saluted. The crowd, still on its feet, chanted "KG, KG" until the opening tip.
"It felt like my rookie year," Garnett said. "With the energy, the anticipation. I looked in the crowd. I saw my friends and family. I was glad my daughters were there to see it. It was special."
7:16: Washington's Nene went into the lane and attempted a mini-hook that Garnett swatted away as the crowd roared. It was one of the only highlights of the opening eight minutes, which saw the Wolves start 0-for-9 from the field (Garnett was 0-for-2) with four turnovers while falling behind by as many as 15.
7:57: Amid MVP chants, Garnett was fouled and made one of two throws.
7:58: Garnett took a pass from Wiggins and hit a 17-footer to pull the Wolves within two with 3:32 left in the half.
8:21: Twenty-six seconds into the second half, Garnett fed Wiggins, giving the Wolves their first lead.
8:39: On the bench, Garnett's towel-waving after a Wizards turnover brought the crowd to its feet.
What quickly became apparent was that Garnett can be as excited as ever, and can make an impact even off the court. After one impressive play by Wiggins in the third quarter, Garnett shoved Kevin Martin so hard he nearly fell off his chair.
And on the court? Amazing. "It's different, just different," center Nikola Pekovic said. "If you have a little energy, you just keep coming, keep coming."
9:14: With the Wolves up 20 with 1:49 left, Garnett left the game for good, the crowd echoing in his ears.
Postgame: Generally speaking, joy. Coach Flip Saunders called it the most fun NBA game in which he's participated. Martin said there were times he had chills. Garnett, still pumped up well after the game was over, struggled for words.
"It was a good night, man. For everybody involved," he said.