A boisterous room was brought to a collective halt as Kevin Garnett walked into his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Target Center. That momentary silence was followed by a massive ovation as the best player in franchise history took the podium next to coach Flip Saunders.
As surreal as it might seem, after almost 10 years away, Garnett is once again a member of the Wolves organization.
These last few days have been just as surreal for Garnett, though.
“I'll be honest … I don’t even recognize Downtown,” Garnett said. “There were one ways that are two-ways now. I'm asking about some of the restaurants from when I was here and some of those have closed or moved. I just got to get reacquainted with the city.”
Garnett said as soon as he walked in the building Tuesday afternoon he also realized the scenery wasn’t the only thing that changed since he’s been away.
“I haven't seen since Flip’s daughter since she had a pacifier in her mouth and now she's a grown lady working in the front office,” Garnett continued. “Ryan [Saunders], who was a ball kid, was like 10 years old and now he's a grown man with a voice deeper than both of ours.”
In truth, when Garnett left, while it was extremely tough for everyone involved, life went on. It was clear, though, that Garnett’s heart never truly left Minnesota.
He kept his home in Minnesota and still visited often. This is where he feels most comfortable. That much was evident at his introductory press conference. Garnett — decked out in a navy suit with a checkered shirt to match underneath — answered reporters by name almost as if he never left. He spoke with a sense of conviction that has become synonymous with him throughout his career and seconds later had the entire room in laughter. Garnett was clearly in his element back in the confines of the Target Center.
“He’s really happy,” Saunders said. “I know that. He showed excitement coming in seeing people. He’s excited to be back here and that’s as important to me as anything.”
Garnett had ultimate say in whether or not he came to play in Minnesota this season and said he wouldn’t have waived his no-trade clause for any other team. A guy that takes a lot of care in making these types of decisions, Garnett admitted this was extremely tough on him.
“I didn't get any sleep the night before the trade deadline and the two days before that,” Garnett said. “I don't like to do anything during the season. If anything, I like to do things, obviously, in the offseason. I have kids in school and family, so it wasn't really my cup of tea. … I just thought as far as my options as far as what I want to do after basketball, this is probably the best situation, a storybook ending.”
Garnett spent 12 seasons with Minnesota and developed into a transcendent player in that span. He took the league by storm as an ultra-competitive teenager out of Farragut Academy in Chicago and quickly grew into one of the best players in the NBA. He helped turnaround the franchise and won the MVP award in for the 2003-04 season. That same year he led the Wolves to the Western Conference finals for the only time in franchise history.
Minnesota traded Garnett to the Boston Celtics on July 31, 2007. Garnett won a championship in 2008 as a member of the Boston Celtics and was instrumental in that title run. He had reached his ultimate goal, though it wasn’t necessarily the place he envisioned himself reaching that goal.
“Since I've been in the league my goal has been to win a championship and I wanted it to be here in the Twin Cities,” he said. “I've always wanted that. I wanted to be a part of that the first time this franchise went over the hump.”
Now that he’s back Garnett seems fixated on bringing a championship to Minnesota. That said he was realistic about expectations for his on-the-floor contributions. He’s not the 19-year-old kid he once was and he’s knows that.
“I'm still competitive,” he said. “I know I’m not a 30-plus minute guy anymore and I'm not looking for that. I've already addressed that with Flip. I know my body is different now and I have to listen to my body. I want to be effective and productive and whatever I can give I will.”
Though he’s focused on this season, Garnett also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of owning the Wolves in the future.
“That’s a goal,” he said. “I want to understand ownership and try to get into that and bring a championship to this city. That's been my goal since I came to the Wolves.”
Garnett is finally home, and from the looks of it, he couldn’t be happier.
“I saw this as a great opportunity for me,” Garnett said. “So I'm just happy to be here and I figure if LeBron [James] can go home, [expletive], why can't I?”