LOS ANGELES – Ten days later, Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett had something to say on Tuesday and he made sure he said it.
Without prompting, Garnett approached media members after the team’s morning shootaround in Los Angeles to express support for interim head coach and former teammate Sam Mitchell and the direction the 14-35 Wolves are headed.
“I feel real good about the progression of this team since Day 1 and I think it needs to be said and needs to be understood that I’m endorsing Sam Mitchell and our coaching staff and this organization,” he said. “More importantly, I’m excited about our future. I’m excited about our young players. I feel like we’re getting better. These last 10, 15 games, we’ve gotten better. You see it and I think that needs to be said. I think you all need to understand we’re supportive around here.”
Before a game against Memphis last month, Garnett was asked what he thought about the notion that Mitchell isn’t the right man for the Wolves’ job. Garnett answered by saying, “Next question.”
His response was fairly typical for questions he perceives as negative, but in this case it left his meaning open for interpretation.
And that is why Garnett approached reporters rather than the other way around after the team’s morning workout on UCLA’s campus. He has often declined interview requests this season, but on Tuesday spoke about Mitchell and the team’s direction for four minutes.
“Just because I haven’t done a lot of interviews and voiced my opinion on a lot of things, I want you guys to understand that not only do I endorse Sam Mitchell, but the other players do, too,” Garnett said. “We believe not only in him, but the system and what we’re trying to do here. I think everybody needs to understand that.”
Mitchell said he doesn’t read or listen to what people say and said before Tuesday’s game that he was unaware of Garnett’s comments. He also said he appreciated the support.
“I know everybody wants to win,” Mitchell said. “Nobody wants to win more than me and these coaches in that room. Our livelihood depends on wins and losses, but we have to do the right thing by these guys. My most important job is to teach these how to win, but it’s also important these guys play, develop and get better, which is what they’re doing. My job is to do the thing for the organization. It’s not about what I want.”
Garnett missed his fifth consecutive game Tuesday — the final one the Wolves will play against retiring Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant — because of what he said is a leg that’s bothering him. The team has listed his injury as a sore knee. Center Nikola Pekovic (sore foot) and guard Kevin Martin (bruised wrist) also didn’t play.
“I’m having some difficulty with my leg, running and stuff,” he said. “But it’s progressing and I should be back soon.”
The Wolves returned Tuesday to Staples Center, where they opened the regular season against the Lakers three months ago with a one-point comeback victory. That was the beginning of an 8-8 season start before the Wolves lost 27 of their next 33 games entering Tuesday’s rematch against the Lakers.
“What we’re trying to do here is build something for the future and these are the first steps of that,” Garnett said. “I don’t really come to you guys a lot and say two words, but I just want you to know that needs to be heard and said.”
Garnett said he sees improvement from his team in everything from how his young teammates are passing the ball to how they communicate with each and carry themselves.
“When you’re watching your team progress, those are the things you’re looking for,” Garnett said. “We’ve been doing a lot of hanging with each other. We did movies one day. We did turkey burgers another day. Those are the things that build character and chemistry throughout the teams and those are the things of which I speak.”