With apologies to Kevin McHale and George Mikan, Kevin Garnett is the only basketball hero that the state of Minnesota has ever had and it’s not even close.
Before leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 2007 trade to the Boston Celtics, Garnett was the singular face of the franchise for 12 memorable years. Maniacally competitive, loud and charismatic (traits, it should be noted, that Minnesotans do not possess in any fashion), KG was beloved in the local market – though that’s a relative term up here: Even with Garnett, the Wolves were probably only fourth-most popular team in the Twin Cities, significantly trailing the Vikings, Twins and Wild (a hockey team, if you were wondering).
His departure exacerbated things, leaving a gaping, bloody exit wound in the franchise’s already weak bonds with the local fanbase.
There have been plenty of post-KG players that were supposed to be Minnesota’s New Dylans, precocious young talents aiming to claim his mantle as the meaningful leader of the franchise. Each fell short in their own way and for their own reasons – Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn, Derrick Williams, Kevin Love…the list depressingly goes on. The team’s talented PR department has been put through the wringer over the years, forced to devise a myriad of fresh ways to package and sell hope to the dwindling legion of Wolves Nation. But the ugly and persistent truth is that things have never been as good as they were when the Big Ticket was around.
Which is exactly why euphoria shot across the wind-swept prairies on Friday when Garnett stated that he wants to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves when 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.”
Um. OK. That’s pretty definitive. No “sources” or bullshit clickbait conjecture. Just KG straight-up saying he wants to buy the Timberwolves. On the record.
Needless to say, this news came out of left field. Garnett hasn’t talked much about his time in Minnesota since he left, so it’s a bit of a shock to hear him reveal his interest in returning here. The reaction from the fanbase was overwhelmingly positive. If you can scan through the comments section from the local Star Tribune story on KG’s potential return without going sterile or blind, you’ll see a lot of the following two sentiments from the local rubes:
- I haven’t cared about the Wolves since KG left. He should come back.
- KG loves Minnesota and is one of us. He should come back.
So he should come back. Of course, what you don’t see many people talking about is the notion that KG would be a terrible owner of a sports franchise. All the uniquely KG things he does that give him an edge on the court – punching dudes in the face, trash-talking, swearing on live television, head-butting hoop stanchions whilst yelling maniacally – could potentially hurt him in his quest to steer an NBA franchise toward competence. Owning and managing a franchise is a long game. It takes discipline, patience, analytical thinking and a willingness to recognize and acquiesce to the intellect of the scouts and eggheads under your employ. These are not skills that insanely competitive people like Kevin Garnett have typically displayed.
On a related note, Michael Jordan – perhaps the most competitive, successful and self-confident NBA player of all time – has had only middling success (to put it mildly) as a GM and owner. His short-term thinking and questionable talent scouting have generally put him a step behind strategic thinkers like R.C. Buford in San Antonio or Daryl Morey in Houston.
One can easily envision Garnett screaming “GET THAT SHIT OUTTA HERE” to a rival owner during trade negotiations, all heaving shoulders and crazy bulging eyes. Or tearing off his executive suit to throw on a Wolves practice jersey and angrily bark at some dazed rookie about the finer points of the pick and roll. Or impatiently trading away some promising young player for the perceived savvy of a nearly washed-up veteran in the hopes of winning now, dammit.
All of those things would be bad. But, like, who cares?
In the case of KG and the woeful Wolves, it really doesn’t matter. It’s not like the franchise has been that successful at Keeping Up With the Prestis in its current structure anyway. At this point, anything would be a welcome change to its weary fanbase. And if that anything is a return to the franchise’s only real glory days? Bonus.
Here’s a basic premise upon which I believe we can agree: 10 years is a long amount of time. Human beings instinctively mark 10-year increments with dazzling pomp and circumstance: high school reunions, wedding anniversaries, oral histories of Love Actually. We fete ourselves at the 10-year mark because we all deeply understand that a decade represents the first official tollgate at which it has now been a super-fucking-long-time since a thing happened.
It has been 10 years since the Minnesota Timberwolves have been in the NBA playoffs. Literally more than half of the NBA’s teams make the postseason every year. So it is somewhat incredible that the Wolves have not sniffed the playoffs since they fell admirably to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference Finals. That’s the longest active playoff drought in the NBA.
Banging your collective heads against the walls (or stanchions) of incompetence long enough can do wonders for a fanbase’s willingness to embrace change, even if that change means hitching their wagons to a kinda/maybe/somewhat crazy guy who once allegedly told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. That’s a price Wolves fans appear willing to pay.
Is KG going to purchase the Timberwolves any time soon? Probably not. He’s still in the midst of his final contract year with the Brooklyn Nets, and has hinted he may not retire after the season ends.
Is it even possible he’ll buy the team? Well, yeah, kinda! The current Timberwolves owner – Glen Taylor – is 73 years old and has explored the concept of selling the team as recently as a year ago. He’s also stated he wants the franchise to stay in the Twin Cities, something Garnett would likely be willing to do since he still maintains a home in the area. So while it’s not a slam dunk (ha), it clearly could happen in the upcoming years. There’s enough of a chance for hope to take root.
Ten years ago during the Wolves’ last trip to the playoffs – a run that represents the only tangibly positive memories in franchise history – the man leading the charge was one Kevin Garnett. His recent comments indicate he wants to tackle the challenge of guiding the team out of their decade-long walk in the NBA wilderness.
If he’s successful, Garnett’s status as Basketball Hero of the Frozen North will harden into diamond. Word to Joel Przybilla.