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Garnett comes full circle for Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Timberwolves' new Minister of Culture needs to get reacquainted with his minions. "I'll be honest with everybody," Kevin Garnett said Tuesday, "I do not recognize downtown at all. I made a right, thinking it was a one-way. It w...

MINNEAPOLIS - The Timberwolves’ new Minister of Culture needs to get reacquainted with his minions.
“I’ll be honest with everybody,” Kevin Garnett said Tuesday, “I do not recognize downtown at all. I made a right, thinking it was a one-way. It was a two-way and a car was coming at me.”
Garnett is proving that you can go home again, but you can also get lost very easily in the old neighborhood.
“My friend tried to take me up to Uptown, and I didn’t recognize nothin’,” Garnett added. “On Highway 7, I was looking, I felt lost. All my shortcuts, the frontage roads, are gone now.”
What a nice day for the long-struggling Timberwolves organization. The usual public grumbling has been replaced by excited chatter. Garnett was officially unveiled - re-unveiled, I guess - on Tuesday at Target Center. It was a grand homecoming, and there was a beautiful symmetry to it.
“It’s perfect, man. If you ever have a story that’s a fairy tale, this is the perfect ending to it,” Garnett said. “This is how you want to do it. A lot of guys want to come back to their origin and don’t have the option to. I’m fortunate to have the ability to come here and do just that.”
It was nearly 20 years ago, June of 1995, that 19-year-old Kevin Garnett was initially introduced to the public. He was the first player to be drafted out of high school in 25 years and alternately appeared to be both mature and naïve.
“I don’t consider myself the average 19-year-old,” he said back then. “I’m going to spend the rest of the summer working hard. This is my job now.”
Good stuff. A bit later he was asked about potential mentors and replied:
“I really look up to J.R.”
J.R. being the infamous Isaiah Rider.
“I respect him as a player, and I hope to meet him and respect him as a person,” he added.
Told of Garnett’s remarks, then-coach Bill Blair grimaced and said: “We’re going to get him another role model.”
Blair lasted just 20 games into Garnett’s rookie season. He was replaced by Flip Saunders. Saunders and Garnett survived Rider, Cherokee Parks, Stojko Vrankovic, Christian Laettner and other assorted oddballs on the way to forging a consistent playoff team.
They survived the Malik Sealy tragedy, the suspension of general manager Kevin McHale, owner Glen Taylor and the loss of three draft picks in the Joe Smith signing scandal, and they survived a “home opener” at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Through it all, Garnett became a favorite with the Minnesota fans, right up there with the likes of Kirby Puckett.
It was in large part because they watched him grow up. Heck, it was almost as if they helped raise him, night after night at Target Center offering encouragement and appreciation. He was like one of their own and stayed that way even during his eight-year absence. The chances of his returning to his beginnings seemed infinitesimal. Those things just don’t happen very often in pro sports.
Now he is here and helping to work on the big picture. There’s a new baseball park next door to the arena now. And the roads may have been reconfigured in his absence. Yet there is one constant: When he was traded, the Wolves were a bad team. They still are and need his help.
Garnett is on board with mentoring, setting an example and imparting knowledge from his “journey,” as he calls it. He’ll play a little bit, too. He also makes no bones about wanting to be involved in ownership someday. We’ll have to see how that plays out. Garnett and Taylor still appear a bit wary of each other, although both will work to change that.
At Tuesday’s unveiling, Saunders went out of his way to point out that the Wolves had several leaders including Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. Saunders added that a culture already is in place. But all three of those fellows will defer to Garnett, who has been there, done that and has a championship ring to show for it. Garnett is the new Minister of Culture and he will take the job very seriously.
So it was a good day for the Timberwolves. Garnett may have a huge impact or he may not. The main thing is that right now, at this moment in time, everyone is happy. Fans are smiling, players are excited and Garnett is downright emotional about being back.
What’s better than that?
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
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