On one hand, the buzz surrounding the deadline deal as it happened, was as exciting a time as any this season. That said, the overall product never turned into much on the floor. KG only played 5 games after returning to the Timberwolves, a nagging knee injury forcing his removal from most of the second half of the season.
On the other hand, Kevin Garnett is the reason I, and most Wolves fans my age, got into the Timberwolves and the NBA as a whole at such a passionate level. While he never won a title in Minnesota, his first 12 years with the team put the Wolves on the map in a way that hasn’t been done since he left.
It’s hard to review a player that only played 5 games for the team you’re covering. In most cases, we probably wouldn’t even bother with it. But this isn’t most cases. Want proof? Let’s look back to Garnett’s first game back as a member of the Wolves.
The Target Center arena hasn’t been as loud as it was February 26, 2015, since the first stint KG donned a TImberwolves uniform. I’m talking about the playoffs. It’s been a while.
On the floor, there were a couple noticeable changes when KG was out there. As it has been mentioned in the past, the small sample size KG did get on the floor, the Wolves’ defensive rating jumped from 111.3 to an absurd 93.8.
But again, keep in mind, this was in a minute-restricted sample of 5 total games of action. Still, it’s fun to guess: Was it Garnett’s vocal leadership that helped get the team in line, or was it simply the young players’ desire to impress the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer? Whatever it was, there was definitely something going on that lifted the team’s collective motivation.
But even when Garnett was on the bench, unable to play, he was establishing impact in ways only KG could get away with. From media row, I could always hear KG calling out player movement when the Wolves defended near the Wolves bench. He was like a defensive quarterback in an expensive suit, but the difference was evident.
When young players would come out of the game, KG was constantly there to give his 2 cents. Smartly, the players seemed to listen intently, whether Garnett could play or not.
KG has been in Adriean Payne's ear since he sat down. Doing the mentor stuff. pic.twitter.com/jFQ308kNJi
— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) March 5, 2015
Assuming KG is returning next season (reports suggest he is), everyone will hope his health improves, thus allowing him to play more games than he did this past year. But either way, his biggest impact may come in the role that he claims to embrace: as a mentor.
With either Karl Towns or Jahlil Okafor likely coming to Minnesota (read Zach Harper on that debate here), Garnett’s duties will go beyond the basketball court in a more extreme way than they did a year ago. While he almost certainly had something to do with the improvement of Rookie of the Year winner Andrew Wiggins, there’s only so much a big man (even one as freakishly versatile as KG once was) can teach a wing player.
Assuming one of the draft’s most prized big men becomes a Wolf next year, KG will have every opportunity to teach him the benefits of being a great two way player, how to properly pass out of the double team, how to defend the pick and roll, and a myriad of other things he did better than everyone else.
That’s why it’s so easy to talk about Kevin Garnett, and that’s why I was ultimately excited to write his review. Whether he played 5 games of 50 games for the Wolves last season, it doesn’t matter. What he has done for basketball in the state of Minnesota has made talking about his accomplishments an easy and seemingly endless task.
At one point, he was the key guy to a series of Timberwolves playoff runs. Now, with a new cast of Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, and the future No. 1 overall pick all in Wolves uniform next year, Garnett’s job will be to show them how to do things the right way, and the best way. Minnesota knows he can do it, too.