Like Kevin Garnett in general, Flip Saunders’ decision to bring the future Hall of Famer back to where it all began was initially misunderstood.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for him last February, it reeked of a publicity stunt and not much else. Saunders’ team was in the midst of its worst season in franchise history, and had just surrendered a useful player – Thaddeus Young, who was acquired in exchange for a first-round pick – for one who would do little more than put butts in the empty seats of Target Center.
Once the honeymoon ended, though, just how many Minnesotans would show up to watch Garnett labor up and down the floor for 15 minutes a game?
That imminent and widespread excitement not withstanding, the 39-year-old’s return to the Timberwolves was never about marketing. Saunders brought Garnett back to help his career reach full circle, but also to mentor Minny’s impressionable group of youngsters – one that would grow even more promising after the draft lottery balls bounced fortuitously in early May.
Eight volatile months after Garnett donned the off-blue and green again, the late Saunders’ vision is in full bloom. Karl-Anthony Towns is an overwhelming favorite for Rookie of the Year; Andrew Wiggins is making the leap to legitimate stardom; and the Timberwolves are a respectable 6-8, just one year removed from winning a league-low 16 games.