Leader of the Wolf Pack
*Photo via NBA.com
Learning the intricacies of the game from one of the best big men to ever touch a basketball is a privilege that can speak volumes in the development of young players around the Association. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Kevin Garnett influence has brought a booming voice full of experience and tenacity to one of the league's youngest teams.
No matter where his NBA journey has taken him, Garnett has always been a leader of his team. On the court and off, KG will have his voice heard. His career has come full circle as he has returned to the team that drafted him and gave him the first 12 seasons of his illustrious career.
Garnett is now in his 21st season, tying Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most in NBA history. KG has been to the playoffs 14 times in his lengthy career—longer than most players can say they have been in the league. With all of that experience and the same deep-seated fire that has stayed with him for decades, Garnett has proved to be a key part in developing the next generation of NBA greats.
The Timberwolves are far different now than the team KG once knew back in the mid 2000’s. The current roster averages 27 years of age and both of their future franchise players, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, are a mere 20 years old. To put in perspective, KG has been playing for longer than a few of the T-Wolves rookies have been alive.
Garnett has exhibited his ability to be a leader who provides guidance for all of his teammates, but he has particularly taken rookie Karl-Anthony Towns under his wing. The number one overall pick in the 2015 draft is aware and grateful for the opportunity to learn from the highly skilled and accomplished big man. Towns shared the luxury of playing alongside Garnett in his rookie spotlight with nba.com: “Being able to pick his brain, gain knowledge about how to be a champion, which he is and also how to, I guess, be the Big Ticket.”
Garnett emphasizes the importance of communication to his teammates as only one of the best trash-talkers could ever do. He can often be heard coaching from the sidelines and is always the first to cheer on his teammates, (in that colorful KG fashion, of course.) Garnett even turned back the clock with an emphatic and very impressive dunk over high-flyer Blake Griffin that got his teammates on their feet. Not too shabby for a guy that’s third all-time in minutes played with over 50,000 ticks.
A highly influential presence in Garnett’s life was that of his former coach, the late Flip Saunders. His sudden death in October 2015 hit Garnett particularly hard as the two remained close even when KG left Minnesota. Garnett played for Saunders for the first ten years of his career and learned a great deal from him. He can now relay the particulars of the game that Coach Saunders instilled in him to his younger counterparts that didn’t get to know the basketball mind that Flip was the way that KG did.
Much of KG’s greatness came in his ability to win the mental battle with all of his opponents on a nightly basis. Now, he’s in the minds of his rookie and sophomore teammates, dropping knowledge, advice, and probably some seriously incredulous stories that only he could relay in a bluntly charismatic manner.
Garnett has shown to be an amazing mentor to the young guys in Minnesota who need a leader. And although he claims that he will never coach in the NBA, he’s already proven to have a positive effect on the players. The former Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, and Olympic gold medal winner will be 40 this May, but his passion and fire for the game have yet to die out.
The Big Ticket isn’t going to drop 20 and 10 night in and night out, “Da Kid” won’t be playing 40 minutes a game on the tail-end of a back-to-back, but Kevin Garnett will be there ensuring that his ferocity and will to win live on through the young Wolves.
*Stats and Info Courtesy of B-Ball Reference, NBA.com