Browsing through the sports section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune this afternoon I stumbled across this little nugget from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, “It was more like, I’d say, K.G. tanked it.”
I was shocked and appalled. I rarely get riled up by player-trash talk, coach-speak or the inane excuses of professional sports management. It’s all part of the circus… but I found this offensive.
I’ve been a Kevin Garnett fan since he was drafted in 1995, when I was also a Minnesota resident. He has been one of the hardest working and most conscientious players in league history. He’s professional and unselfish to a fault, literally incapable of playing selfish or sub-par basketball even when the inferior play of his teammates begged it. Garnett has never been a dominant offensive player who drops 28 or 29 points a game, and he’s struggled to take over late in games on that end of the floor, but he’s done everything else exceptionally well in his career. Among power forwards in NBA history he’s right up there with Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale and Bob Pettit.
Kevin Garnett Photo Credit: Icon SMI
Unfortunately, Garnett’s career in Minnesota was mostly painful, with an NBA record of seven consecutive first-round losses in the playoffs and an MVP campaign in 2004 capped by disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. But I don’t blame KG. The Wolves never put a competitive team around Garnett, and that falls at the feet of perhaps the worst general manager in professional sports, Kevin McHale. McHale made one embarrassing move after another, from the Joe Smith fiasco that cost Minnesota three first-round picks to mishandling the Chauncey Billups situation to swapping Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury and Brandon Roy for Randy Foye on draft night to the draft history that includes first-round busts Ndudi Ebi, William Avery, Radoslav Nesterovic and Paul Grant. Kevin McHale has only made two great moves in his tenure as Timberwolves GM: drafting Kevin Garnett and trading Kevin Garnett.
And through all of that tomfoolery from McHale, Glen Taylor is the team owner who has kept McHale gainfully employed as Minnesota’s general manager. Glen Taylor is the person who has asked for a complete lack of accountability from his front office, who has never cared enough to question McHale or his ludicrous moves and who has never gone out and brought a real GM to town.
Further reaction to Glen Taylor’s comments and an interview with Kevin Garnett…
On top of that, Minnesota forced Garnett out this summer, and it came from the top. Garnett was shocked and hurt when he learned of the deal to Boston, though he ultimately embraced it. But make no mistake, Kevin Garnett never demanded a trade in word or action. So what would motivate Taylor to make these comments now? What good can possibly come of it? After more than a decade of squandering Garnett’s talent and career, to take a cheap shot at him now makes little sense. But then again, little has made sense in Timberwolves country under Taylor’s watch.
His choice of targets here could not be further from the mark. Garnett is a hard man who came from hardship, but he’s as passionate and prideful as they come. He’s professional and caring beyond anything I’ve seen in the NBA. He gave everything he had to the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, to the state of Minnesota and to Wolves fans. This is a low blow from Glen Taylor, a man who signed KG’s massive paychecks, but who ultimately never did right by The Big Ticket.
Garnett is too much of a warrior, too passionate about the game of basketball and too full of pride to tank it under any circumstances. Anybody who has watched Timberwolves games over the last decade knows that there is no player in the NBA who brings it every game like KG. Nobody brings more intensity or more heart on a nightly basis. I’ve attended a number of Garnett’s games while he was in a Wolves jersey, and I’ve seen some ugly losses in those contests, but I have never left the game feeling like Garnett didn’t do everything he could that night to win the game and earn his paycheck.
Any Garnett doubters need to be reminded of this interview with John Thompson from 2005. If you’re pressed for time, watch it starting at the 4:00 mark until the very end. You can’t watch this and not feel for the guy. And you can’t be around that guy, who is like this every day, for 12 years and then call him out a few months after you ship him out of town. It’s completely unacceptable behavior from Mr. Taylor, and it speaks to a lack of understanding about what happens in practice and what happens on the court day in, day out. For shame.