Once the Kid, now the man, Kevin Garnett is coming back.
No, this isn’t some deft, fantastical maneuver in NBA 2K15’s "MyGM" mode. The all-time face of the Timberwolves franchise, in the flesh, will once again grace the Target Center halls and suit up for home games at 600 First Avenue North.
The Wolves traded power forward Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn in exchange for a reunion with Garnett, Minnesota confirmed Thursday evening. A team source told FOXSportsNorth.com the team is hoping to sign Garnett, who will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, to a two-year deal, guaranteeing he finishes his career in the Twin Cities.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been finalized yet.
"Everybody knows I have a special relationship with (Garnett)," Minnesota coach and president Flip Saunders said earlier this season. "Whenever you play against him, it’s like playing against your son, in some aspects."
Reports of the move surfaced quickly Wednesday night with Thursday’s 2 p.m. CT trade deadline fast approaching, but it’s been in the works for the past couple weeks, the team source said. Saunders saw a chance to clear Young’s potential $9.7 million salary (player option) off the books for next year and rejoin Minnesota’s success-starved fan base to the one player who carried it over the top.
Perhaps most endearing to Wolves fans: The Big Ticket wanted to come back, even though the Wolves are 11-42 and in last place in the Western Conference. The 38-year-old, now in his 20th NBA season, has a no-trade clause in his contract that gave him virtually all the leverage.
Leading the Wolves to eight straight playoffs culminating in the 2004 Western Conference finals, Garnett averaged 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in 12 seasons with Minnesota. He won the 2004 league MVP award and played in 10 All-Star Games. Saunders of course, was the Wolves’ head coach almost the entire time. Current Wolves assistant Sam Mitchell was on those teams, too, and served as one of Garnett’s first NBA mentors.
"I know those are great basketball minds, great basketball IQs, two guys that are really competitive, teaching young guys," Garnett told the New York Post in November. "I think the league needs more of that."
Drafted fifth overall by Minnesota in 1995, Garnett still leads the Wolves all-time in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, minutes and games played.
But then came a messy 2007 departure that saw Garnett reluctantly traded to Boston, where he won a championship the following spring. Today, he’s an aged, lumbering version of the KG locals recall.
This year, his second in the Big Apple, he averaged 20.3 minutes, 6.8 points and 6.8 boards per game.
But Saunders believes his old friend and pupil will have a profound impact on Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the Wolves’ young core. So do his newest comrades.
"I know he’ll teach me a lot," said Wiggins, who along with his teammates — including Young — didn’t find out about the trade till after practice Thursday. "When you think of ‘Timberwolves,’ you think of Kevin Garnett. That’s the first name that comes up."
Said point guard Ricky Rubio: "I’m going to be there with my notebook and see whatever that he does. I remember him being with the Timberwolves and Boston Celtics winning a championship. Playing against him was something special. You could see that players were afraid of him. That means he was tough but he was a winner."
Garnett also has expressed interest in one day owning the organization, and a formal reconciliation with the club — current owner Glen Taylor, in particular — could jumpstart that process.
"I want to buy the Timberwolves," Garnett told Yahoo Sports early on this season. "Put a group together and perhaps someday try to buy the team. That’s what I want."
"I have ties there. Flip’s there."
Re-acquiring Garnett came at a steep price.
Minnesota gave up a 26-year-old Young in his prime. Young was added into this past summer’s Kevin Love trade, and the Wolves essentially gave up a first-round pick to include him.
Young averaged 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 48 games with Minnesota this season.
Big-picture, that leaves rookie Adreian Payne — who’s played three NBA games — and sophomore Anthony Bennett — who’s been almost as disappointing during Year 2 as he was during his rookie season in Cleveland — as surefire power forward options after this season.
It remains a position of need since Love forced his way out of town. Chances are Saunders plans to either draft a power forward or snag another one in free agency this offseason.
For at least 29 games, though, the guy who played it better than anyone here ever has will be back for another — and, quite possibly, final — round.
"When people talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves, there’s no question that Kevin Garnett is the name that comes up," Saunders said. "That’s who they talk about. Kevin Garnett was an MVP here. He was an all-pro player for many years. Didn’t win a championship, but he brought the organization to where it was. My hope is that — even though when he left, there might have been some bitter things — that he’ll eventually come back into the fold and really know how much the people — not just in our organization, but in Minneapolis — really respect him for what he’s done."
No more moves: The Garnett trade was the only deadline deal Minnesota took part in Thursday. Rumored targets Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Gary Neal all remain on the roster moving forward.
All three were at practice Thursday.
Saunders said repeatedly he had little interest in trading Martin, and the two "had some very good laughs" at reports Wednesday that he could be dealt, the shooting guard said. No deals for Budinger, who has a $5 million player option for next year, or Neal, whose contract expires after the season, materialized, either.
Some reports listed Neal and Martin as buyout candidates. Saunders has publicly refuted the possibility of buying out Neal, and as for Martin, well …
"Thanks to Miley Cyrus, I guess ignorant things still go viral," said Martin, who has two seasons left on his four-year, $28 million contract.