Once considered one of the greatest practice players of all time because of his will and dedication, Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett now mostly is limited by passing time and a 39-year-old body to as many — or as few — minutes he can muster on game nights.
Garnett didn’t practice Monday and according to interim head coach Sam Mitchell hasn’t practiced much recently. But he continues to start each half on game nights, play whatever minutes he can each night and has been remarkably efficient offensively given the limited time.
He is shooting 56.5 percent (26-for-46) in his past 14 games, even though he played just 7 ½ minutes in each of his past two games.
On Sunday, he was a plus-11 in plus-minus rating in those 7 ½ minutes. On Wednesday against Denver, he was a plus-11 in nearly 21 minutes.
“KG gives us what he can,” Mitchell said. “I try to limit his minutes between 10 and 15, depending on how he’s feeling.”
For the season, Garnett is shooting 49.5 percent from the field and averaging 15 minutes a game. Mitchell uses him to provide a veteran’s stability and defender’s passion at the start of each half every night.
“He’s still very valuable to what we’re trying to do,” Mitchell said. “Those 10 minutes that he plays, he sets the tone. It’s 10 minutes our young guys get a chance to see one of the greatest defenders ever play. They get a chance to play with him. They’re learning experience, whether KG is on the floor for 10 minutes or 17 minutes. It’s invaluable.”
After Sunday’s 93-87 loss to Dallas, Mitchell said Garnett played only 7:26 because “he’s hurt.” On Monday, Mitchell attributed his daily conversations with Garnett concerning just how much or little he can play the next game simply to 21 NBA seasons.
Garnett last summer signed a two-year, $16.5 million contract that runs through next season.
“Just old, man, just old,” Mitchell said. “But you know what? Everybody comes into this stage at some point. Father Time is undefeated. KG still has the desire to get out and play. For the minutes he plays, he plays as hard as he can.”
First one to 100
The Wolves scored 100 or more points in 19 of their first 27 games and by then they had an 11-16 record. They haven’t done so once in their past 11 games, not since winning 100-85 at Brooklyn on Dec. 20.
They’re 1-10 in those 11 games.
“We’ve been playing decent defense, we just haven’t found a way to score over 85 points,” Wolves veteran point guard Andre Miller said. “In this league, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket, get some flow and some easy baskets. We haven’t found a way to do that.
There are a lot of ways we can improve. We’re almost at the season’s halfway point. Hopefully some of the things the coaches are trying to teach us is sinking in and guys are taking it to heart.”
That approaching light…
Mitchell was in a remarkably upbeat mood after Monday’s practice, one day after his team lost its sixth consecutive game. He attributed it to coming to work and all his team’s young players working to get better.
“You want to win every game but every morning I wake up and I walk through these doors and I see all our young guys,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to work with them again and know they’ll get a little bit better that day. I know in the back of my mind, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know we’re not always going to be here. We’re 12-25, 12-26 now but one day in the near future, we’ll be 26-12.”