There are many worthy storylines from Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. From the Oklahoma City Thunder landing Enes Kanter for nothing more than a box of Wheat Thins, to Pat Riley pulling a typical Old Man Riles move and grabbing Goran Dragic in the prime of his career. And while these moves are certain to grab headlines as the Thunder and Heat look to shore up their respective post-season chances, there was another move that grabbed my attention.
The Minnesota Timberwolves continued the rebuilding process, trading Thaddeus Young to the Brooklyn Nets for an aging veteran named Kevin Garrett, and in the process, bringing his career full-circle. Garnett, as you very well may know, began his career in Minnesota after being drafted straight from high school in 1994.
Oh the power of nostalgia. I remember having the chance to watch him play on my birthday when he came to Charlotte. It was one of my more memorable birthdays. Simply because, in his younger years, he was a beast, dominating the league year-in and year-out. As the news broke yesterday, I found myself on YouTube, watching clip after clip of the man they used to call the “Big Ticket.”
The trade that sent him back to Minnesota not only brings back nostalgic memories for myself and many other fans around the league, but also for his coach. The trade reunites him with his close friend and former head coach Flip Saunders.
Back with the Timberwolves as both coach and President of Basketball Operations, Saunders needs Garnett to play a much different role with this team than in years past. At 38, Garnett is way past the prime of his career, one that saw him win the 2004 MVP award.
Now as a veteran, he will not be asked to play big minutes, but his role with this team is much bigger than the one he held in Brooklyn. Saunders has assembled a roster flush with young talent. In Garnett, Saunders couldn’t have a better mentor.
Not to be mistaken, Garnett’s passion is still there. While he may not be as vocal as before, his leadership shows in other places. He still practices like a man possessed. For young talents such as Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine, he will provide a walking example of how to be an everyday NBA professional.
Garnett can also provide something else to Wiggins and LaVine: an understanding of how to deal with stardom. Much like Wiggins, Garnett was the highly touted high school prospect. He knows what it is like to be a kid who cannot legally drink, yet have the expectations of a franchise and a city placed on his shoulders.
If Wiggins needs guidance or inspiration, he won’t have to look far. In Garnett’s time in Minnesota, he led them to 501 wins and eight playoff births. Since his departure in 2007, they haven’t sniffed the playoffs.
But he didn’t just win the most coveted individual award and consistently lead mediocre Timberwolves teams to the playoffs. His imprint on the franchise runs much deeper. To date, he still leads the franchise all-time in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes played.
For Saunders and the Timberwolves front office, along with Timberwolves fans, they all were the real winners of the trade deadline.