Minnesota’s memories of Kevin Garnett as a basketball player and the Timberwolves as a franchise both would have been better off if he had not been traded back to Minnesota on Feb. 19, 2015.
The Wolves gave up Thad Young, a player of some value who was headed for free agency.
Flip Saunders was running the basketball operation and was the coach when the trade was made. He helped to sell a vision of Garnett arriving to offer assistance over the final two months of the schedule to a young team that was losing persistently.
That whole sales pitch to fans was pretty much a sham.
Garnett’s return produced an enthused sellout crowd in Target Center on Feb. 25. He played through a homestand, but wound up playing only five of the 29 games that were left on the schedule.
The Timberwolves then gave Garnett, who had turned 39 on May 19, 2015, a two-year, $16 million contract. There had to be a guarantee from Flip that the Wolves would give Garnett such a contract for K.G., always the reluctant one, to accept the trade back home to the Timberwolves.
It made little sense from a basketball standpoint. Flip’s death on Oct. 25 – the eve of the 2015-16 season opener – shook the Timberwolves (and Minnesotans, in general) to their core.
Sam Mitchell was left to deal with Garnett, who had to be treated with reverence even though some work on the defensive board was about all he had left to contribute. He would play in only 38 games.
If you want to buy the leadership angle for the young roster, that’s fine, but the 556 minutes that Garnett played could have been better spent with younger players.
I don’t know. Maybe Adreian Payne could have learned more about sharing the basketball with teammates with 300 of those minutes.
The P.R. move of bringing back Garnett for a couple of sellouts at Target Center late in the 2014-15 season wound up costing an additional $16 million for the 38 games which he played on a bad knee last season. The Timberwolves had to give him the second $8 million of the two-year contract to persuade him to announce retirement on Friday.
Sixteen million for portions of 38 games is bad business even in the NBA, where money is burned like a pile of leaves (at least, the piles of leaves that we used to be able to burn in Minnesota autumns).
The Twins brought back Torii Hunter in 2015 for $10.5 million. They got 139 games, 22 home runs, 81 RBI and leadership that was palpable. Hunter provided a respite from what now has been re-established without him as the most-pathetic six-season stretch (2011-2016) in the 56-year history of the franchise.
Hunter had more hits (125) for the twins in his final season than Garnett had points (122) for the Wolves.
One terrific player for a franchise left a wonderful taste for baseball fans. In my opinion, the other has left a taste with local NBA fans that has us wishing the reunion had never happened.
The memories of Garnett should have been as the magnificent combatant of the Target Center court through eight playoff seasons.
It’s a cliché but also a truism: K.G.’s Game 7 vs. Sacramento remains one of the two or three greatest nights in Minnesota sports in the past 25 years (starting with Oct. 28, 1991), the day after the Twins-Braves World Series.
I loved watching Da Kid from his arrival in the fall of 1995 through the spring of 2004. It wasn’t so much fun when it all came apart during the 2004-05 season. And beyond that first night back on Feb. 25, 2015, it was not fun at all this time, watching Kevin try to play with a bad knee and zero offensive game.