This is one of those stretches of days that fall into my favorite times of the year. Just like most people, the holidays get top billing. Family and friends. Rest and a bit of relaxation. Amazing food and giving thanks for all the good things we have. It also allows me a bit of extra time to take in games and really take them in.
It brought me to Target Center the other night to see how the Wolves would bookend their close win over Philadelphia against the Atlanta Hawks. All I was hoping to see was a “W” but in the process of getting to that finish (which the Wolves did nicely); one Wolves player grabbed my attention and got me thinking. He’s likely your favorite and in the basketball universe, he’s been there and done that, a few times, with unforgettable flare.
Kevin Garnett is quickly approaching his final games as an NBA player. But as I was analyzing KAT and Ricky, Horford and Teague and all those on the court, it was KG that grabbed my eye like never before.
Garnett is a basketball’s version of a fine Swiss time piece. Forget that he commands your attention because of his sheer size and demeanor. When it’s time to go to work, KG’s lunchbox is a basketball and he’s the Foreman. He’s in charge.
Garnett is doing EXACTLY what Coach Flip Saunders would want him to do. Still quietly grieving from the loss of Saunders, KG’s presence is unmistakable. KG is the loudest to cheer and criticize. He’s loud and listens, he taunts others and hears all said on the court. KG sees it all. Garnett’s focus is on the court and his teammates and it’s rarely in the stands.
KG gets it. It’s far too simple to say he’s old school and a throwback player. That’s given. It’s really so much more to him, his hoop DNA and what the man lives and breaths when it comes to this game. KG’s NBA legacy is so well written and when the time comes to be called to the Hall, KG’s first ballot ticket will be punched. You see, the days when Garnett had to be the man are over. KG is now responsible for paying these young Wolves forward the way he’s always done it. Intensity, professionalism and enormous credibility. KG is doing just that.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Garnett. In his 20th year, he’s as much a force as ever. Maybe KG doesn’t dominate the way he did on the court but KG is no slouch and still a huge factor. I watched him drill two solid shots, disrupt three plays on the defensive end and on one of those plays, break up and intercept an Atlanta pass then on the other end, wind up with the basket (a turnaround jumper from 17 feet). Garnett is an amazing passer with the vision of a Bill Walton (perhaps the best passing big man I ever watched). Garnett sees and fills space on the floor. KG creates flow for the good guys and disrupts it for the bad cats. And all in 5 minutes of playing time.
Garnett is leadership. You might love him; you might be one of those who don’t and take issue with my note of gratitude. Maybe he’s TOO much this or TOO much that for you. I dunno. I just know, after watching basketball for many years, KG is the perfect player to be imparting wisdom and direction to the team’s future and their number-1-draft pick (Karl-Anthony Towns). KG is a solid left hand to the right hand passes of Ricky Rubio. And when push comes to shove, I want KG in my corner. Every time.
Some of the things KG does in the course of a game have gone by the wayside over the years. Like the high-5’s to every player when he strides to the bench. Yes, strides not mopes. His large hands are the first in the team huddle and the first hand to break it, loudly. He’s a player and teammate. KG’s into each and every game because that’s him. What’s entertainment and a show for fans is his life. It’s personal. KG doesn’t just stand above the crowd because of his 7-foot frame, he sees over it because of his relentless passion.
While most fans see Garnett spraying and slinging the powder in his hands at the officials table before entering a game, they see him (can’t miss him) yelling from side to side at the crowd and getting them stirred before tip-off. They see the antics that KG has always made part of his “game ritual”. I was a little taken a back when I really focused on the Garnett contribution. Smiling, I realized that KG doesn’t have to look down at his watch to know that time isn’t on his side. So, he’s making hay, in a big way, to drive home to some very young and impressionable players how special it is to play this game, what has to be done night in and night out and IF you can commit to that, you just might reap the sweetness of a career far beyond memorable.
KG has it all. Tons of money. Records galore and an NBA title with the most legendary of all NBA franchises (Boston). But what KG values most is what he’s giving to his young Wolves, direction, dedication and counseling that could carry them far down the road.
With my head in my hands watching and gazing, I was left thinking about the holidays while watching Garnett. I’m glad the basketball God’s GPS directed KG back to Target Center for one more run. What a gift it is to be able to see him again and process this kind of game review. And as most come to grips with the loss of Wolves leader Flip Saunders, it is a blessing for a basketball fan to have KG in their corner.
Crazy how it all works out, huh?! Over 20-plus years, so many losses and not enough memorable runs, all the players that have come and gone, from the Adrien’s to Wright’s and some 200 others in between. The fans who’ve held on and the others who just couldn’t make it. It’s about highs and lows, sad passings and new beginnings (times four or five). And now, with perhaps the brightest new opportunity to turn around this franchise, it’s the fans all-time favorite player who’s fast tracking the time he has left to leave his most indelible mark.
Where it goes, who knows. But over this weekend of giving thanks and being grateful for what we have, the basketball fan in me is left smiling and giving thanks for number-21. KG. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving!
I’d love to hear your favorite KG story or musing. Communication is a two way street so if you have something to run by us, drop me a note at rod@gameONtvMN.com and we’ll check it out. Remember, keep your Game ON! and do not be a “casual” fan. Jump on board and keep the faith! See you on TV!
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If you are a serious Timberwolves fan (and even the casual fan is allowed), drop me a note with your thoughts. Write me at rod@gameONtvMN.com.
Love for the Lynx!
The off-season is here for the Champion Lynx but players have taken their games overseas for the winter. We’ll get you updates here on how they are playing and what’s up with their games. ICYMI, the Minnesota Lynx won the WNBA title for the third time in 5-seasons. Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was named WNBA Finals MVP as the Lynx beat Indiana 69-52, finishing the 2015 postseason with a 7-3 record and at 22-12 finished the regular season with the second-best overall record in the league.
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