This is going to be fun.
Kevin Garnett is already my favorite interview and I didn't even ask him a question Tuesday. I didn't need to. The guy is an open book; he wears his life on his sleeves - a real people's player. The anti-Love, quite honestly. His presser was a media landscaping project, with old hands getting re-acquainted with Garnett's forwardness and immersive brand of humor, while new guys (like myself) got a first taste of the Kevin Garnett Experience; candid, with sly humor, but at the same time soulful and very, very real. The adventure started with Sid (because of course it did) bowing to Garnett as he took the stage, then mic bombing Alan Horton's introductions.
Meanwhile, my experience was capped off by choosing to sit next to Kare11's Eric Perkins. Garnett, hilariously, couldn't find him in the crowd, forcing me to point him out.
But through all the laughs and excitement, there's one thing that really caught my attention in his press conference: that championship burden has not left Garnett's shoulders. He didn't just want to win one, he wanted to win one for Minnesota. And reading between the lines of his responses, you realize he still does, and intends to follow through.
It's not a secret that Garnett's split with the Wolves in 2007 was a messy affair. Bridges were torched, and KG was not on good terms with a lot of the staff here. It's something that Garnett said has been a process for him to put in the past, and that he hadn't seriously thought about returning to the team until very recently.
"No. Not at all. Not at all. I wasn't really happy about how I left here. My goal, since I entered the league, was always to win a championship, and I wanted that to be here. I've always wanted to be part of that first of anything for this franchise."
"I've understood over time that you have to forgive and forget. Obviously I won't forget certain things, but it's time to move on."
At 38 years old, and with a roster full of first and second year players, the likelihood the Wolves will compete for a championship during what remains of Garnett's playing days are slim. Particularly in this Western Conference. When KG led the Wolves to the west Finals in 2004, they won the conference with 58 wins. Last season, 58 wins would have been 3rd place, and only 10 loses from not making the playoffs at all. The hill to the top of the NBA right now is so monumentally steep it's practically a cliff.
But for Garnett, it became clear that his drive to bring a championship to his beloved 'Sota isn't going to stop when he stops playing. Yes, he's here to mentor the young players on this roster. And he said after practicing with them today, he likes what he sees.
"This is probably the most talent on this team since the Timberwolves been assembled. The talent on here is endless. I feel like they've got the tools to be whatever they want to be for the future. I want to help with that transition."
But that last part is interesting, isn't it? Garnett didn't say he wanted to help them become better players or some other cliche veteran leadership line. He specifically talked about a transition. That's something you say when you plan to still be around yourself in the end, and I'm guessing we have a pretty good idea to what.
I don't want to answer anything that's going to get me tied up in anything I can't commit to. But I will say ... the plan is to come here and not be one or two years but to be here invested."
"That is the goal. At some point, I want to understand ownership and try to get into that, and bring a championship to this city. That's been my goal since I became Wolf."
It certainly sounds like Garnett doesn't just intend to play for the sake of playing, then move on to ownership for the sake of owning. He's choosing to keep playing for a specific purpose; not just because his body will still allow him to, but because this is a chance for him to have a direct hand in preparing the other players to become a championship team for when he's no longer playing alongside them. That's the transition he's referring to. Garnett still wants to get that title for MInnesota, even if it's as an owner rather than a player. That's how much it means to him.
Let's take a look back at LeBron's letter to Sports Illustrated, where he explained the reason for returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio."
Winning a championship for your home has more meaning than just winning one. And I get the irony of saying that as if winning one at all is an easy task in the first place. But it's clear there is extra emphasis on it for LeBron, and for Garnett. Minnesota has never won an NBA title. It's not just a "long, long time" for us, it's never.
Garnett takes that personally. He may not have been born and raised in Minnesota the way LeBron was in Akron, but 'Sota is his just as much as Ohio is James'. Through eight years, two teams and a championship trophy, Garnett still has "win one for Minnesota" at the top of his list. When the Wolves drafted him all the way back in 1995, KG made this his home, and while "his team" may have gone on to be Boston and then Brooklyn, it became clear today that that was separate for him. Home is where the heart is, and his heart has always been here.
Garnett didn't have to come back. He had a no trade clause and his pick of contending teams. He could have stayed in Brooklyn and kept his kinds in their school. He could have gone to Los Angeles and competed for another title with Doc and the Clippers. He probably could have gotten a buyout and then signed with anyone. But he didn't. He chose to waive his trade clause to come back here, and in his words, that was the only option he would consider. Because this way, not only could he continue his quest for an NBA title in Minnesota possibly (probably) as an owner, but he could have a direct impact in preparing the players for the journey as well.
"If I was going to waive my no-trade situation, it was just going to be for this. This is the perfect situation. This is full circle here."
"I figured, if LeBron can go home, why can't I?"