Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager
Feb 24, 2015 7:51 PM ET
Kevin Garnett and Sam Mitchell are 13 years apart in age. Don't let that fool you when it comes to the type of relationship these two ex-teammates have, though.
When talking to the two, it almost seems as if Mitchell is the older brother by just a year or two.
Mitchell played the role of mentor for a young Garnett during his first few years in the league. The two weren't just teammates with the Timberwolves. The two competed every single day in practice against each other, and you better believe things got very intense from time-to-time.
Most of all, though, the two were friends who respected the hell out of each other.
When Garnett signed his mega-deal with the Timberwolves back in 1998, Garnett called Mitchell 23 minutes before the deadline happily telling the vet that a deal had been worked out.
“I’ll never forget,” Mitchell said about that late-night call.
Mitchell was an original member of the Wolves back in 1989. In 1992, Mitchell was dealt to the Indiana Pacers along with Pooh Richardson. Three seasons later, Mitchell returned to the Wolves as a free agent. That year was 1995 – the same year the Wolves gambled and took a lanky teenager out of Farragut Academy with the fifth overall pick.
He became the first player to be drafted out of high school in 20 years.
A mentor was needed and that’s what Mitchell was for KG, even if he won't admit it.
“He gives me too much credit, man,” Mitchell says of the praise Garnett has given him over the years.
Most would jump at the opportunity to say they helped develop a future Hall of Famer. Not Mitchell. Mitchell thinks it was Garnett who helped him on the court, not the other way around.
“Kevin gave more for my career than (I did for his),” Mitchell said. “… I tell him all the time, the reason I played until I was 39… I was playing against him every day. Think about it. Kevin Garnett goes hard every single day. He cuts you no slack. He was pushing me. He made me better.”
Mitchell and Garnett are now back together with the Timberwolves. The roles have changed. Garnett is still a player, while Mitchell is the assistant coach.
Mitchell wasn’t sure how Garnett would take the move back to Minnesota. Sure, Garnett waived his no-trade clause to come back, but he isn’t known as a player who likes change a whole lot, especially in the middle of the season. Mitchell’s worries were erased almost immediately.
“Man, he was just talking and laughing (at practice),” Mitchell said. “… He’s happy and I know it."
Garnett isn’t what he used to be when he went up against Mitchell at practice. He’s a player who will play 15-20 minutes per game. While the team does think he can still contribute on the court, the real reason the front office brought him back is for his leadership on a very young team.
“I’m trying to be what Sam Mitchell was to me… I just told him, thank you for everything,” Garnett said. “I hope I can give back to some of these young players.”
“As happy as I am for me to be around him every day," Mitchell said with his eyes welling up. "I’m happy for our young players… A great, great person and a great, great teammate.”