Over the years, Kevin Garnett has turned into a caricature of himself. Like Gregg Popovich’s dynamic with the media, Garnett’s borderline sociopathic competitive myopia has reached a certain level of meta self-awareness.
He relishes fulfilling that role, being the KG that everyone expects him to be, the KG who has attained mythic status for questionable behaviors that at various points have included barking like a dog at his opponents, repeatedly slamming his head into the goal post to psyche himself up, or making obscene comments about a rival player’s wife, all in the name of that effervescent quality we call “intensity.”
At this particular stage of his career, it’s the primary reason why Flip Saunders brought him back to Minnesota in February and then signed him to a two-year contract this summer. The Timberwolves have a promising young core that includes number one pick Karl-Anthony Towns, dunk champ Zach LaVine, and reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.
They have all the potential in the world, but what they lack in maturity and professionalism is where Garnett enters the picture. In a wide-ranging interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe this week, Saunders said Garnett didn’t waste any time setting the tone during his first practice after rejoining the team when he “motherf*cked” Nikola Pekovic into running faster after he noticed he was slacking during a drill.
According to Saunders, Garnett has also apparently doubled down on his lofty expectations for the team as a whole heading into next season:
“Here’s what KG told our players: If you’re coming to camp on September 29, and you’re coming with the idea that we’re not going to make the playoffs, don’t even bother coming in. That’s all that needs to be said.”
Setting goals is admirable, but it can’t be emphasized enough that the Wolves were the absolute worst team in the NBA last season, as in dead last in the rankings. Yes, they have a nice young group of talented, athletic players who are defensive-minded and, on paper, perfectly equipped to thrive in the space-and-pace era of the modern NBA.
But these things just don’t happen overnight. Although, that day could come quicker than we think if Garnett can convince these fledgling stars to adopt his singular obsession with securing a place in basketball Valhalla.