Kevin Garnett is coming home, if you consider the place the future Hall of Famer played his first 12 NBA seasons “home.”
The Timberwolves on Thursday completed a trade with the Nets that brings back the gangly teenager they selected fifth overall in 1995 and nurtured into a player who won an NBA title only after the team traded him to Boston in 2007.
The Wolves traded starting forward Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn in the deal.
All these years later, Garnett remains the only star player in Timberwolves history who can lay claim to taking his team to the playoffs, reaching them eight consecutive seasons. Included was a run to the Western Conference finals the last time the Timberwolves ever made the playoffs, in 2004.
“He put the Minnesota Timberwolves all around the world,” said Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio. “Even when I was in Europe and in Spain, I knew (about Minnesota) because KG was here. That means a lot. It’s an honor to play with him and have him in the locker room. I’m going to have my ears open to whatever he says. He’s a winner. I know that, and I’m a winner, too.”
The trade reunites Garnett with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, who coached him during his first decade in the NBA.
To complete the trade, Garnett had to waive his full no-trade clause and put aside hard feelings he once had toward his former franchise.
When he was traded to Boston on July 31, 2007, Garnett said this: “I guess at the end of the day, I’m loyal to a point where I feel, if someone’s loyal to me, then I have no problem with that,” Garnett said. “But when that changes, it’s pretty easy for me” to move on.
In the short term, the trade makes the Wolves worse rather than better by dealing away Young, a 26-year-old starting power forward in his prime, for a 38-year-old former superstar who is expected to retire after this season, unless he is convinced — or convinces others — to return for one final year next season.
But it also frees the Timberwolves from possibly owing Young nearly $10 million for next season, and it sends into a locker room filled with impressionable youngsters one of the league’s fiercest competitors and demanding practice players.
Young this summer can opt out of the final season of a contract that would pay him $9.7 million next season and be free to sign with any team. Perhaps just as unpalatable to Saunders and the Timberwolves: He could opt in, and the team would have a big hit on its salary cap for a player who likely won’t be the starting power forward next season because of his size limitations.
The trade gives young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett and even Rubio someone to watch and follow every day. It also may bring the franchise its next owner to succeed Glen Taylor, who bought the team in 1994 and approved the drafting of Garnett the next year.
In November, Garnett told Yahoo Sports that he wants to buy the team that drafted him after he retires.
“I want to buy the Timberwolves. Put a group together and perhaps some day try to buy the team. That’s what I want,” Garnett said. “That is the one that has my interest. I have ties there. Flip’s there.”
Saunders coached Garnett for more than 10 seasons and Garnett still has a home in the Minneapolis suburbs.
The trade reunites Garnett not only with Saunders but assistant coaches Sam Mitchell and Sidney Lowe as well.
The Timberwolves brought Mitchell back to the organization as a player after they drafted Garnett, a move intended, along with the acquisition of Terry Porter, to give the teenager a veteran mentor in the locker room and on the practice court.
Lowe was an assistant coach two different times during Garnett’s many seasons with the Timberwolves.
When he was drafted, Garnett was the first high school player drafted by an NBA team in 20 years, since Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby were selected in the 1975 draft. But Garnett opened the way in the next decade for a succession of players who did the same — from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, Amar’e Stoudemire and Josh Smith to Darius Miles, Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry — until changed NBA rules forbade such a thing starting in 2006.
Garnett’s decision to bypass college was controversial, particularly for a player who transferred high schools from South Carolina to Chicago. That move was one of many reasons why NBA scouts debated whether he was a unique prospect who’d redefine his court position or another Chris Washburn, a high lottery pick who flamed out because he was not mature enough to make the transition.
Saunders and Wolves general manager Kevin McHale went to Garnett’s private workout for NBA scouts before that 1995 draft intending to praise whatever Garnett did that day in Chicago in the hopes it’d convince one of the four teams drafting ahead of them to take him, thus dropping one of four top prospects down to them with the fifth pick.
Saunders to this day tells the story of how he and McHale looked at each other after only a few minutes, recognizing the fluid guard skills in a big man who insisted he be listed incorrectly at 6-foot-11 to avoid 7-footer stereotypes, and knew they had to keep their mouths shut and just hope Garnett would last until the fifth pick.
He became a future Hall of Famer and a guy who, along with a young foreigner named Dirk Nowitzki, remade the power-forward position. He also became the best player from a draft in which Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were selected before him.
A person with knowledge of the deal says the Minnesota Timberwolves are sending forward Young to the Brooklyn Nets for Garnett. The person spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been officially announced.
Garnett spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota. He guided the Timberwolves to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history and won the MVP while helping them to the Western Conference finals in 2004.
After winning a title in Boston, Garnett is nearing the end of a brilliant career and now could finish it in front of a crowd that continues to adore him. Garnett’s new teammate would be former Kansas star Wiggins.
Garnett had to waive a no-trade clause to allow the deal to go through. ESPN reported that he agreed to drop the no-trade clause, according to Garnett’s agent.
Other NBA trades
▪ DENVER-PORTLAND: Arron Afflalo’s second stint in Denver didn’t last long, with the veteran guard sent to the Portland Trail Blazers in a five-player deal Thursday.
The Nuggets also included backup forward Alonzo Gee in the trade. In return, Denver received Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and Will Barton along with first- and second-round draft picks, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because no deal has been announced. Yahoo Sports was first to report the trade.
▪ WASHINGTON-SACRAMENTO: The Sacramento Kings have agreed to trade guard Ramon Sessions to the Washington Wizards for Andre Miller, a person with knowledge of the deal said Thursday.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams have not announced the move, which comes just before Thursday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline. Yahoo Sports first reported the deal.