I wanted to take a minute to tell the fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves a heart felt thank you for all of the support and enthusiasm for the team over the past few years. Even though the past couple of years had been tough from a wins and losses perspective, when I will think of my time in Minneapolis, I will always think about that 2004 team that almost made it to the NBA Finals. At that time, Kevin Garnett was the MVP of the entire league, Sam Cassell was an All-Star and Latrell Sprewell was one of our emotional leaders. I remember during the playoff run that year how driving to and from games was absolutely crazy with part of downtown shut down so that cars could get through. This was all possible because of you, the fans and your amazing support.
From a different standpoint, Minneapolis has come to feel like an absolute second home for me personally. Having grown up in Northern California, I never really knew much about Minnesota until Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor signed me to play for the Timberwolves. Needless to say, the past several years have been some of the best years of my life and I am grateful for the opportunity, the support from the community and the fact that you truly made me feel at home in new place. Thank you for your friendship and for the giving me the chance to play for the team. When friends from out of town came to visit Minnesota I would always take them to the stone arch bridge downtown, the state Capital, or the Mill City Museum. Exploring new parts of the Twin Cities became one of my passions while I was there.
After I learned of my trade to the LA Clippers, David Kahn left me a voicemail and it was great. To you, the fans, David Kahn is going to do a great job as the General Manager. He is going to tirelessly do everything in his power to return the team to the same form of that special 2004 season. And to Glen Taylor, I express my thanks for allowing me to contribute to a great team. I’m sure that you will get the team back to the high expectations that you and the community have for the team. It has been an honor to play for the team over the past number of years and to be part of your organization.
But above all, I want to thank you the fans. I wish all of you the best and I hope that I will see you down the road and perhaps at a Timberwolves vs. LA Clippers game in the future!
The other day someone said to me, “Who do you want to win the championship…the lakers or the celtics?” That’s one of the hardest questions I could answer, but the truth is that I want the Lakers to win. I am a Timberwolf first and foremost, but I gave three years of blood sweat and tears to Phil Jackson and the Lakers. I have to pull for my old team even though I do want Kevin Garnett to get a ring.
I cannot believe that Flip Saunders was fired. I cannot believe it. This man can flat out coach and while I hope that the Pistons have success in the future, let’s not forget that Flips tenure as head coach of Detroit took the Pistons deep into the playoffs every year. Coaching is not an exact science and it’s not easy at the NBA level with mature and grown men all of whom have strong competitive natures. I wish Detroit well, but they lost a gem with Flip.
My summer is going well. I enjoyed watching Kobe tonight. It’s nice when you see someone care so much about what they do as Kobe cares about his profession. Phil Jackson used to put us in the video room and show us film. “Fellas…like it or not, what you see on the game film is what the fans see….this is your livelihood. It should be important to you.”
That is the big question that all of the fans and media are asking me constantly. Today a trusted media member told me that KG had been planning on coming, but that now it was “a decision that would be made by the Celtics Organization” and not by Kevin Garnett. I wouldn’t even waste Kevin’s time by calling him to find out if he’s coming or not. Kev loves Minnesota. If he can be here, he probably will, if he can’t make it due to his team telling him to stay home and rehab he won’t make it. That’s just the way it goes for NBA players as ulitmately it’s Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge’s decision.
But regardless we are read for this game. We felt we played great in Boston earlier in the season and gave ourselves a chance to win on the road. Our practice today was high energy and intense. Theo Ratliff got some live repetitions today in practice too, so that was great news.
I knew the Boston Celtics were going to be good this season, but we haven’t seen an NBA team go 20-2 for a very long time. Tonight Kevin Garnett and Paul P. and the rest of the Celtics play against another great team in the Detroit Pistons. If I didn’t have a game of my own tonight, I would be watching the Detroit vs. Boston game. Flip Saunders knows Kevin as well as anyone in the league and Kevin Garnett may know most of Detroit’s offense like the back of his hand. Needless to say, it’s going to be a great matchup.
I guess they are putting microphones on NBA coaches for nationally televised games. That is the buzz I’ve been hearing around the league. I am really surprised the networks and the coaches decided to do this. I just want to know who at the TV network has the job of listening in to the coach the whole game and trying to figure out what they can put on the air and what they can’t play. In addition, most coaches have their right hand man that they talk to privately back and forth during the game. To draw some sort of parallel, think about someone having your family miked up for a week. To me it’s tough to imagine that. In fairness, the leauge does promise that it won’t use material that is too over the top, but that means the only thing they’ll be able to play on TV is the real generic stuff which isn’t too interesting anyway.
Today I got the unimaginable news that Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics. Being out here in Minnesota and hearing this news was interesting because it is the most talked about thing in almost every circle in which I move. Friends from out of state are emailing me about it. A non-sports radio station “wished Kevin safe travels to Boston” tonight at 10pm while I was driving home.
Here are a few memories of the Kevin Garnett that I know. This is the side that the public doesn’t see every day.
One Cardinal rule in our locker room is this: Never wear gear from another NBA team. So when our new assistant trainer from Oklahoma had a Dallas Mavericks screensaver on his cellphone, Kevin Garnett found it and enforced the penalty. When I say penalty, Kevin made him sprint two hundred yards from our team bus to a pickup truck parked in the distance and then yell out “I love the Timberwolves!” three times.
When Craig Smith came into practice wearing some Golden State Warriors practice shorts, Kevin brought out the entire team and had Craig go to center court and hold up the shorts and say “I will never wear these shorts again,” while he held the shorts up and walked around three times. Everyone was laughing. Craig was laughing too. KG loves Craig on and off the court. I’ve never seen a rookie big man like Craig come in and win over the trust and confidence of Kevin so quickly.
Our offense calls for two “big men” to be on the court at the same time and it takes quite a while to learn all of the defensive rotations. Kevin Garnett expects nothing short of perfection on defense. Mark Blount is one of the smartest veteran centers in the NBA and he and Kevin read each other all the time. Where I have been impressed with Craig is that he’s beyond his years on defense. On offense, he’s been tearing up the other team’s interior and scoring in bunches. But in some ways he’s been even better on defense.
But getting back to the theme of this blog. I never thought Kevin Garnett would be apprehended by our own locker room fashion police. But it did happen a few months ago. It all started after practice one day when a few of us got into the locker room to shower and get ready to go home. KG was still down in the weight room lifting weights. Rashad McCants went over to Kevin’s locker and pulled out his shoes and put them out for everyone to see. “What the heck are these?” Rashad said as he pointed to Kevin’s shoes. As everyone looked down to Kevin’s locker we were shocked to see that his shoes had the words “Portland Trailblazers” alongside the Trailblazers logo! All of this was of course in Trailblazer red and black colors!
I’ve never seen so many guys so excited to bust Kevin’s chops. When Kevin finally got up to the locker room he walked in and saw his shoes out for everyone to see. Kevin busted out smiling and yelled out, “Who was in my locker! I don’t know who was in my locker!” Rashad stood up and called out, “I peeped it out when you walked in here this morning!” Trenton Hassell was having a field day. “Throw those shoes in the trash” he yelled out. It was my job to take the shoes and stomp on them and then take them to the garbage can. Kevin was laughing so hard. I guess Adidas had sent out a bunch of walking shoes to Kevin and the shoes all had logos of different NBA teams.
Kevin told us how he had gotten up that morning and tried on the Portland shoes and that they had looked good. So he asked his wife “What do you think? Can I wear these in to practice?”
“Well Kevin, I don’t think so. I mean, the Trailblazers are in your conference and you play against them, right?….” she said.
Kevin decided to wear the shoes in anyway and explained how he “had pushed his jeans down over the Trailblazers logo and walked into the locker room really quickly.” He even showed us how he had pushed his shoes way to the back of his locker area under his chair so that none of us would see the shoes. Well, nothing gets past Rashad fashion wise. We had a good laugh that day. But the story didn’t end there. Trenton Hassell called out:
“Man I’m going to use those shoes…..I’m getting them out of the garbage can. I’ve got my guy in Chattangooga Tennesse and he’s 6’10” and wears size fourteen too!”
Back to a serious note. Kevin Garnett is one of the mot loyal individuals I have ever met in my life. We’re all gong to miss him and we all wish him well.
Last week I lost one two teammates and I gained one. As I scrolled through ESPN.com last week, I saw the breaking news that Justin Reed and Mike James were being traded to Houston for Juwan Howard. I guess this is the really hard part of the business of NBA basketball. When you go to battle with the same guys every day you get close to them. I’m going to miss Mike and Justin. Clearly, Houston loves Mike James and almost signed him last summer. I think that Justin Reed is only really lacking the right opportunity. It seems like he played really well here for us, especially when he got extended minutes.
Today, I was in Rochester Minnesota giving a “Life in the NBA” talk at Rochester Athletic Club. I can’t remember how many times people asked me if Kevin Garnett was going to get traded, but it was a lot. I really think that there is not going to be any trades involving Kevin Garnett. I sure hope not. I know for a fact that Kevin loves Minnesota and he likes the guys in the locker room. But I’m also aware the realities of professional sports and that from a business standpoint, anything can happen to anyone. The thing about Kevin is that he makes everyone around him better. Three years ago, Sam Cassell had an all-star season, Sprewell had a great year and many other guys on our roster had career years. When you have someone like Kevin Garnett on your team, everyone is going to benefit.
It’s always nice to have a team bonding event during the middle of a long season. The most recent one took place at Gerald Green’s apartment near the Mall of America. Gerald hosted the team, and Antoine Walker had some great food catered in from one of the best Italian restaurants in the twin cities, Vescio’s Cucina. I guess it was technically a super bowl party but it was also just a time to bond, relax, and hang out.
This friday we have the Boston Celtics coming into town for one of our biggest games of the year. All the fans here in Minnesota keep on asking “Is Kevin Garnett going to play?” or “If he doesn’t play, will he be here at the Target Center?” I think the issue right now is that KG has an abdominal muscle injury and all of the above questions are up in the air. When the average fan hears about an abdominal strain it really doesn’t sound that bad. But for those of us that have had the injury (I had one in 2001-2002) it is extremely painful and must be treated or it gets worse and worse to the point you can’t run at all.
I suspect that KG’s strain will get better soon and he will be back as soon as humanly possible. In my 3 years with Kevin Garnett, I basically only saw him miss one practice due to health–it was food poisoning. So you know it’s serious when Kevin sits out. The guy just never gets hurt and when he is hurt he just plays through it. Unfortunately this is one injury where rest is absolutely mandatory.
As far as this season goes, we are finally starting to play well. Al Jefferson continues to blossom and in my mind he has the best jump hook in the NBA. But most importantly we are all growing as a team. Fans are continuing to come out and support us and our crowds have been great. Hopefully I will see you at our game this Friday night!
Tonight we played against one of the best teams in the NBA–The Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash finished his normal “day at the office” with 20 points and 18 assists. Kevin Garnett was dominant on offense and defense and finished with 44 points, a load of rebounds, and a lot of defensive plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet. Every starter for Phoenix was in double figures. It was a great game to play in and a great game to watch.
Mike D’Antoni has changed the way basketball is played in the NBA. (On a side note: He and I jawed a little bit during the game during a stretch when I was pushing for a technical foul for the Phoenix bench when they really protested a call. He heard me calling out to the officials: “Give them a technical” and then he yelled at me to “just play basketball.” It was a little heated for a second then it just died down. I got his point and he was probably right.)
But Phoenix’s new style has impacted everyone from the refs to NBA coaches all the way to professional scouts. The big bruising players are still effective in the NBA, but speed and shooting are at a premium now because of the success of the Suns and the way they have shown you can win with leaner, faster players with high skill levels. I think D’Antoni’s style is showing the pros and colleges a new and exciting way to play the game. I can tell you firsthand that playing against the Suns is fun for us as NBA players, win or lose, because you know it’s going to be uptempo and there’s going to be a lot of scoring. You know you’ll be playing against one of the best teams in this league.
I had a huge celebration when I watched the Stanford men’s basketball team knock off the top ranked UCLA Bruins yesterday. This year, all the national experts are saying that the Pac-10 is the top conference in college basketball. Even though Fred Hoiberg likes to mess with me about how he doesn’t like Stanford’s mascot–The Tree–our mascot was out there dancing around Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto after our big win. I think I will get some video footage of it and email it to Freddie. The funny thing is that everywhere I go people ask me about the Tree. “Hey is it true that the Tree got suspended for two games a few years ago for yelling at a ref.” I hear questions about that all the time. I’m not even totally sure what the right answer is. Well, all I can say is that the Tree is doing something right because everyone’s talking about him/her and the on-court exploits of the tree are taking on an almost mythical status.
On a more serious note, I think that Stanford’s Coach Trent Johnson is showing why he should be a leading candidate for coach of the year. He has dealt with some tough injuries this season but has done a great job of developing his young players like Brook and Robin Lopez. It was special to watch such a well coached team two nights ago. It was nice to see Lawrence Hill take over that game in the second half along with Anthony Goods and the Lopez’s controlling that paint.
When I was a rookie with the L.A. Lakers, I remember my teammate Tyrone Lue telling me that in his first year he had been through a lot. I can’t even remember all of the stuff he told me, but it was something like he had been traded, he saw a coach get fired, and in one fell swoop he had an entire new group of teammates through another trade.
Last Tuesday our coach Dwayne Casey got fired. I was sitting in my hotel room in Portland and first a local writer called me on my cell phone to see if I had heard the news that Coach Casey was fired. I told him, “I think it’s a rumor that’s not true.” Then I got two more calls from national writers in the space of about two minutes and I reminded myself that it’s almost never that the journalists get something this big wrong.
Management decided it was time for a new voice to lead our team and so they made the decision to let Dwayne go. It’s always hard when something like that happens for a lot of reasons. First, Dwayne is a great coach and one of the most even keeled leaders I have ever been around. I think that’s one of the reasons why we had so much success in late December and early January. Dwayne led us through the good and the bad times. Coach Casey knew how to draw up great X and O plays especially late in ballgames when the game was on the line. (San Antonio recent win). I think it was tough for management to release Dwayne also, but ultimately, we as players shoulder a lot of the responsibility for the move. If we had gotten the job done better on the court and won more games the firing would not have happened.
At any rate, I know that Dwayne Casey is going to be involved in the game of basketball for a long time because he is a class act in every way and he knows the game of basketball backwards and forwards. Dwayne communicated with every member of our team from Kevin Garnett to the last man on the team and he was always fair.
On another note, we beat the Clippers tonight in a close game. It was a big game for us because we are fighting with L.A. for a playoff birth right now and the race is close. We had so many big contributions from the team. Mike James and KG played very well and Mark Blount hit a huge jumper late in the game. But my personal MVP goes to Ricky Davis tonight who reminded me of Ron Artest in regards to his defense on the Clipper’s perimeter players. After the game, Kevin Garnett grabbed the game ball and brought it into the locker room to give to Coach Wittman. It’s tough to win games in the NBA and now we’ve finally got one under our belt after the turmoil.
Sometimes emotions can flare in close games and that’s what happened in tonights game against the Detroit Pistons at home. Right now I am in pain because Kevin Garnett got ejected and there is some speculation that the league might come forward with a disciplinary action for those of us involved. I still have not seen a replay of the incident and I didn’t see the first part of the tussle because I had my back turned while I was getting up.
When you get a group of 6’10” 260 pound grown men competing hard in games emotions and testosterone can run high with all of us. We were all out there competing and it got a little bit physical and then it was over. It doesn’t make any of it right, but that is the reality of the situation. I am hoping that the NBA chooses to issue fines as a form of discipline for those of us involved instead of any sort of suspensions for the players. KG is the spoon that stirs the pot for our team and Antonio McDyess is an important piece for the Pistons and has been ever since he arrived. I don’t think tonight’s incident was a fight and in my mind, being ejected is punishment enough in terms of lost minutes. Both KG and Antonio McDyess are class guys and in my mind this incident is over.
All of that is out of our control though now, and I think we are all moving on and using the “water under the bridge” expression. I did want to convey to all of you the feeling in our huddle when we knew that we had lost our leader KG for the rest of the game after he got ejected. Everyone that stepped onto the court knew that each had to raise the level of their play to an even higher level. We wanted to win that game badly for Kevin. Mike James and Randy Foye carried us and then we jumped on Mark Blount’s back who had a monster night on the boards and in terms of his offense.
Lastly, after the game the media was asking us all about Ricky Davis. Let me put this issue to rest. There are no issues with Ricky Davis or any sort of incident that is being speculated upon. Rick is a great teammate and a great player and even though he didn’t have his best shooting night, he did a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He was out there cheering everyone on and giving us feedback when the game was on the line.