Jon Leuer is a backup big man for the Memphis Grizzlies. He returns home to play the Timberwolves for the second time this month on Saturday night at Target Center.
Michael Leuer, Jon's father, was at church last weekend and asked friends if they were going to be at the game Saturday.
"This was a couple that used to be Timberwolves season-ticket holders," Michael said. "And the wife said, 'Probably, but we're going to be there on Wednesday for sure.' "
Michael's question was: Why Wednesday?
"She said, 'Kevie's back … we have to be there for Kevie,' " he said. "They love Garnett. They gave up their season tickets when he was traded. And now he's back."
Kevin Garnett returned to Target Center to play his 928th regular-season game for the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, and his first since April 9, 2007.
Jon Leuer was 1,500 miles away in Sacramento, waiting his turn to assist Memphis in its quest to finish with the best record in the Western Conference. As the Grizzlies have traveled the West Coast from Portland to Los Angeles to Sacramento, Leuer has taken note of reports of a KG Fever outbreak in the Twin Cities.
"It's tremendous for the Timberwolves, the fans and for Kevin," Leuer said. "It seems right that late in his career KG is back in Minnesota."
Leuer was a skinny kid of 8 or 9 when he first met Garnett. It was during the Kevin Garnett Basketball Camp at Hopkins High School.
This was not a camp where the name celebrity showed up for 15 minutes on the first day to welcome the kids, and then 10 minutes on the last day to thank them for participation.
"Kevin was there every day," Leuer said. "He showed us some drills and did what he could to motivate us to be good basketball players."
Leuer and others already were motivated by watching Garnett play for the Wolves.
"I think even by that age — for sure, by 10 years old — I was aware there was a special intensity that KG brought to the game," Leuer said. "I'm sure that every basketball player of my generation looked up to him.
"I was no different. For me, watching KG was the biggest show in Minnesota. As I got older, the appreciation for the way he competed every night continued to grow."
Leuer was 6-1 and 130 pounds as a freshman at Orono High School. He had a growth spurt and went on a workout program. He turned into one of those Minnesota big men that Wisconsin's Bo Ryan zeroed in on.
Leuer was 6-10 and a top 100 recruit when he left Orono High School in 2007. He played four seasons for the Badgers and was first-team all-conference as a senior in 2011. The Bucks drafted him in the second round and Leuer played in 46 games, averaging 12 minutes.
The Bucks were in Boston on Feb. 2, 2012. The Celtics won 102-96 and Leuer played five minutes, but there was this memorable moment for the rookie:
"The Celtics were shooting free throws and I had inside position, next to KG. While we were waiting, I saw him towering over us in that camp, I saw him playing as a young guy with the Wolves.
"I had these flashbacks in only a couple of seconds. I had to get my head back in the game. If there was a missed free throw, I had to try to box him out."
The Bucks included Leuer in a trade to Houston before the 2012 draft. He was released a month later by the Rockets, signed by Cleveland, spent much of the early season playing for Canton in the D League, and wound up with Memphis in a trade on Jan. 22, 2013.
That summer, Leuer signed with Memphis as a free agent, at the same time another Minnesotan, Dave Joerger, was becoming the coach. He gets his minutes mostly behind Zack Randolph at power forward.
On Saturday, it's probable Leuer will spend a few minutes guarding his Timberwolves hero, Kevin Garnett. He has done that in the past, but never with KG in the uniform in which all Minnesota players of Leuer's age group feel that he belongs.
"Kevin talks a lot when he's playing, but he's never mentioned me being one of his campers," Leuer said. "He might not remember me."
Probably not. Jon Leuer is a lot taller now.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org