The Timberwolves' deal to bring in Kevin Garnett didn't come out of nowhere. Coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said last week that the team had been looking to bring in Garnett since they traded Kevin Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins.
But Brooklyn thought it had a contending team at the start of the season and had no interest in a trade, so the Wolves went after Thaddeus Young instead to provide some veteran leadership.
"It's interesting when the Love trade was going down and I knew we were getting a lot of these young players, we made a run before we got Thaddeus to try to get KG," Saunders said. "At that time [the Nets] had just made a coaching change, and they felt comfortable with their team and that they were going to be a competitive team with all the players they had. So there was going to be no interest at all from KG's part to do something like that."
This wasn't just some flash-in-the-pan idea from the Wolves. Jim Petersen, the team's TV analyst, even said on the telecast of the Wolves' 111-109 victory over Phoenix on Friday that he was on the team plane around Christmastime when Saunders informed him that the team still was thinking of ways to bring Garnett in.
But Garnett, with a no-trade clause, had to agree. So what changed his mind?
"I think what really convinced him is, one, he has always been very loyal to Minnesota, he has always loved Minnesota," Saunders said. "I think he was just looking at coming down his career that he felt that he still wanted to have an impact in Minnesota. He can have an impact, maybe not playing as much as he did for sure when he played here, but a little bit of impact on the floor and a huge impact off the floor. He wants to reconnect with his Minnesota roots."
And he still has a home here and apparently planned to live part-time in Minnesota when he retired. And now rest assured, he will wind up being at least a part owner and an executive with the team.
Saunders said he will look to use Garnett from 12 to 20 minutes per game, but that could change depending on the flow of the game and how Garnett is feeling. He also said that there hasn't been any confirmation that the Wolves are going to give Garnett a two-year extension.
"I think Kevin has made it known to a lot of people what he'd like to do with his career," Saunders said. "He has said this year he still thought he could play another year or so. My main thing is we traded for Kevin for this year and we maintain his Bird rights. We have the ability that, once he becomes a free agent and can pick where he wants to go, we'd have the opportunity to pay him the going rate."
Never say never
Saunders said one of the main points of his coaching career has been to remind people to not burn bridges, and that is something that led to this reunion with Garnett, 10 years after they last worked together.
"I said this many times when I've gone out and spoken to people — business people, kids in college, kids in high school," Saunders said. "… You never know what situations can arise and you've got to sometimes take a step back and evaluate all the situations. You have to look and say, 'Hey things can happen, you can go back.'
It's a good lesson for young people to learn, too. Sometimes you go through situations and you feel maybe you've been scorned — as I told KG when he left Minnesota, you feel like a scorned woman — but you know you have to regroup and understand what's your ultimate goal that you want. What's your ultimate vision? Sometimes you might have to bite your lip to get there."
Saunders said one of Garnett's main roles will be to mentor the Wolves' young players and instill leadership in the locker room, and he thinks that could even help Ricky Rubio to learn how to command a team. But there's no question the Wolves have all of a sudden become one of the most interesting teams in the NBA.
"In the history of the NBA, there's probably not been an 11-42 team that has had as much excitement with 11 wins as we do right now," Saunders said. "When you look at the guys coming back, Rubio coming back and [Nikola Pekovic] and [Kevin] Martin, you had All-Star weekend, and now KG. We have to put pieces together.
"Let's face the facts, these 29 games is building for next year. We're going to try different things, different lineups. We want to be competitive, but we want to know what we have when the season ends and what pieces we're going to have to move forward with."
My prediction: Garnett will play at least one more year and then might even be on the coaching staff in addition to being a part of the front office and ownership group.
• Team President Dave St. Peter reports the Twins paid nearly $16 million in taxes to the state of Minnesota, city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County in 2014, a big part of that boost coming from the All-Star Game and related events at Target Field. Included in that amount is $4.1 million to Minneapolis via the city's downtown food/entertainment tax. Since moving to the new ballpark in 2010, events at Target Field have generated more than $82.4 million in total taxes. ... St. Peter also said there are still some 5,000-plus tickets left for the opening game with Kansas City on April 13. The Twins have sold about 1,300,000 total tickets to date.
• University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Gophers baseball team takes on the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., on March 4. The Twins view the exhibition as the start of a tradition of rotating a matchup with the Gophers and Fort Myers-based Florida Gulf Coast.
• Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner on what he saw out of Gophers tight end Maxx Williams at the NFL combine: "I was impressed. He's a very natural player. I'll tell you he ran good. Obviously being here Saturdays, I watched a number of their games and rooted for him. They do a great job over there. He has a real bright future."
• Andre Hollins had been playing his best basketball of the season when the Gophers went 5-3 over an eight-game stretch, averaging 21.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. But in the past two Gophers losses, Northwestern at home and at Wisconsin, Hollins' scoring has dropped dramatically, as he had just 14 points on 26.3 percent shooting.
• Brad Ruiter, vice president of communications for the Timberwolves, reported that the team's official website set records for most page views and visits in a single day after announcing the Garnett trade. The team also sold several thousand single-game tickets for this season after the news broke.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org