When Garnett Returns, He Brings Nostalgia With Him

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

When Garnett Returns, He Brings Nostalgia With Him

On Friday night, Kevin Garnett will make his first trip back to Minnesota as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. He’ll be returning to the same building where he built the foundation of his NBA legacy as one of the most dominant power forwards of his time. He’ll do so wearing the No. 2—a tribute to his late Timberwolves teammate, Malik Sealy—and he’ll likely salute the crowd during his pregame introduction as he’s done for six seasons since leaving Minnesota for the Boston Celtics in 2007.

This will be the fifth time Garnett will play in front of Wolves fans in Minnesota since he left, and given it is Garnett’s 19th season in the league and he plays in the Eastern Conference, it could be one of the last. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

There are so many memories that pour out when Wolves fans think about Garnett’s 12 seasons in the Twin Cities. He registered 10 of his 15 All-Star appearances here, he earned the 2003 All-Star Game MVP honors (37 points, nine rebounds and five steals) and won 2003-04 Most Valuable Player award (24.2 ppg, 13.9 rpg and 5.0 apg). That 2003-04 season was the final of eight straight playoff appearances—the only eight in team history—and ended in a memorable Western Conference Finals postseason run ten years ago.

“He was the heart and soul of that team,” former teammate Mark Madsen said earlier this month in Los Angeles.

He is still the franchise’s leader in total points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, blocked shots, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, minutes, games played and games started.

He averaged 20.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game over 12 seasons in Minnesota. Wolves television analyst Jim Petersen recently told Timberwolves.com on the Wednesday Wolves Podcast that Garnett’s path to becoming one of the all-time greats took form here in Minnesota.

“He’s probably the greatest defensive rebounder I’ve ever seen,” Petersen said. “The way he used to Hoover up defensive rebound after defensive rebound. The way he protected the paint and guarded the pick-and-roll game, he’s one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the history of the game. And the way he shared the basketball from the low post, the way he was a point guard from that position, making the extra pass.”

And now, on Friday night at Target Center, fans will likely get a chance to once again see the Wolves’ past meet its present head-to-head. Because Kevin Love is putting up career numbers that, through the early stages of the regular season, are joining elite company in NBA history. Love is now the automatic double-double presence on this Wolves team that Garnett was for so many years during his career. They play the game in much different ways, but the statistics both players put up in a Wolves uniform are relatively similar.

Wolves Podcast

Feat. Jim Petersen

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Now in his sixth season, Love is averaging 17.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. This year, he’s averaging 25.4 points, 13.3 boards and 4.8 assists per night.

Because these two Kevins are so different and because Garnett’s sample size is so much larger to date, the purpose of this article is not to compare and contrast the two most iconic players in Timberwolves history. But Love and Garnett have only gone head-to-head four times since Love entered the league in 2007-08. Only two of those games took place in Minnesota—their Nov. 21, 2008 and March 30, 2012 matchups. As it stands, Love has out-rebounded Garnett in all four contests (10.0 to 8.0 rpg) and has out-scored him twice (KG leads head-to-head scoring 17.3 to 16.3 ppg). Of course, Garnett’s teams have won all four matchups.

The last time these two met at Target Center in March 2012, Love was in the midst of one of the greatest scoring and rebounding months of the past 15 years. He said before that meeting that beyond their first names, their position and their team affiliation, the links between the two aren’t quite so accurate.

“It’s really an unfair comparison,” Love said in 2012. “He’s a once in a generation player, once in a lifetime player. If I can do some of the things he did for this franchise, it would be nice. But more than anything I just want to win, and he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. Hopefully I can emulate that.”

One thing is for certain: No Wolves player has put up quite the same type of production that Garnett and Love have done during their stints with the team. And there is no guarantee how many more times this matchup will happen inside this state’s borders.

That makes Friday night’s game special for Wolves fans who embrace the past, enjoy the present and believe in the future.

Nights like that bring back a lot of memories. And they don’t come around all that often.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.