Kevin Garnett back at Target Center with new team, struggling game
Kevin Garnett is back in Minnesota trying to figure out a new system with his latest team, the Nets.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even further removed from the era that rendered him Minnesota's all-time basketball poster boy, Kevin Garnett still allows the memories to sink in a bit.
"There is a lot of emotions that come with this building," the former Timberwolves superstar said Friday after his team's shootaround at the Target Center. "A lot of emotions that come with some of the stuff that's in here."
They're recollections both happy and painful; eight straight playoff appearances, culminating in the 2003-04 Western Conference Finals. A hectic summer of 2007 that ended with him heading to Boston -- a decision he reportedly loathed based on his desire to stick around the Twin Cities.
Now Garnett's a Brooklyn Net, 37 years old and in the late stages of a Hall of Fame-type career.
And while the nostalgia ripens every time he returns here, there's enough to worry about in the boroughs these days to keep him from getting too reflective -- regarding either the past or the future.
"Different time, different personnel," the 15-time All-Star said.
With Garnett in the fold following the second blockbuster trade of his career, the Nets carried a 3-8 record into Friday's matchup, the eighth time he'll dress against his former team. A franchise with a $189 million payroll hast lost seven of its last eight and been riddled by injuries.
Garnett himself is off to one of the slowest starts of his career, averaging 6.6 points and 7.8 rebounds through 10 games.
So he can't afford to let his focus wander much.
"Right now, I'm just trying to figure out the system, and where I fit in at it," Garnett said. "Obviously (rookie head coach Jason Kidd) wants more ball movement; I'm trying to initiate that. I care less about my offense right now. I haven't really been too offensive-minded."
The Timberwolves' all-time leading scorer and rebounder does continue to keep up his Minnesota ties. After growing accustomed to Boston -- a place he and trade mate Paul Pierce admitted was difficult to leave behind -- Garnett still calls Minneapolis "a second or third home."
He keeps up with president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, his coach during those golden-age playoff runs. Kevin Love, too, as the Timberwolves' current superstar power forward continues to grow.
Garnett even checks to see how owner Glen Taylor is doing, despite expressing animosity toward the way things went down when the organization decided to send him away.
According to Love, who grew up wearing replica Garnett jerseys and has dealt with comparisons to him his entire career, the two converse regularly.
"We just kind of talk back and forth about Minnesota a couple times, but not really on-the-court stuff," Love said. "He asks about Glen, he asks about our training staff, that sort of thing, just a real easy back-and-forth."
Garnett won't converse publicly about retirement, specifically the notion of returning to Minnesota to finish his career. "Next question," he said when asked about the possibility Friday.
It doesn't look likely at the moment. Garnett is under contract in Brooklyn through next season. If he doesn't call it quits before then, he'd be on the market the same summer Minnesota figures out if Love (player option for 2015-16) and Ricky Rubio (restricted free agent) will still be around.
So Garnett is staying intent on righting his current team's trajectory.
And his own.
"I played in this building before, for countless years," said Garnett, who's never lost against the Timberwolves. "I hope that I make at least a couple shots in this place."
No decision: Like Garnett, Andre Kirilenko didn't necessarily want to leave Minnesota. When asked about his choice to opt out of the final year of his contract and eventually sign with Brooklyn, the Russian small forward said it was the Timberwolves' call, not his.
"I didn't make a decision," Kirilenko said. "Let's put it like this: When I came to Minnesota, in the beginning, I planned to play a long time and finish my career. But things changed, and obviously not in my favor."
Kirilenko signed a two-year deal with a $10.2 million second-year player option following the 2011-12 lockout season. It was thought he'd try and negotiate a long-term contract before this past offseason. When talks between him and Saunders didn't progress, he decided to opt out and went on to sign with the Nets for two years and $3.18 million.
Saunders said previously he tried to talk Kirilenko into staying, but the Russian stopper-slasher "decided to go a different direction," Saunders said -- presumably one that either offered him more than one year of stability and/or could contend for a championship.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, signed free-agent small forward Corey Brewer and worked out a sign-and-trade deal for Kevin Martin.
"I guess it was the right decision for them to make," said Kirilenko, who wasn't able to play against Minnesota due to injury. "I wish I could do a little something different. But I'm happy in the place I'm at right now."
Battered Brooklyn: Nets starters Kirilenko (back), Deron Williams (ankle) and Brook Lopez (ankle) and top reserve Jason Terry (bruised left knee) all missed Friday's game.
Timberwolves center Ronny Turiaf (elbow fracture) and small forward Chase Budinger (knee surgery) remain out indefinitely.
Minnesota small forward Shabazz Muhammad sat out again with a sprained right ankle. He participated in the team's shootaround Friday morning and didn't appear to be favoring it but watched in street clothes for a fifth consecutive game.
Laker legend passes: Former Minneapolis Laker and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelsen passed away Thursday. He was 85.
Mikkelsen played for Minnesota's first NBA franchise from 1949-1959 and retired with 10,063 career points. Teaming up with George Mikan and Jim Pollard, he helped bring NBA championships to the Twin Cities in 1950 and from 1952-1954.
The Hamline University grad was a six-time All-Star and played in 798 of 800 career games. Following his playing he career, he coached and served as general manager for the ABA's Minnesota Pipers.
The Timberwolves honored him with a moment of silence before Friday's game.
Robbie the player rep: Robbie Hummel's Timberwolves teammates elected him this week as the team's representative to the NBA Players Association.
Every team votes on a representative and an alternate, and Hummel apparently has earned enough respect from his teammates in just a couple months to receive the designation. Kevin Love is the team's alternate player rep.
A 2012 second-round draft pick in the midst of his rookie season, Hummel now is expected to stay up-to-date on player issues, become more familiar with the league's collective bargaining agreement and relay information from the NBPA to the rest of the team.