BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER Minneapolis 2001 -
In the waning minutes of a midseason, 21-point rout at the hands of the Portland Trailblazers, superstar Kevin Garnett sat on the Timberwolves' bench, head draped in a towel, unable to watch the massacre. Had he looked up, he would have seen Sam Mitchell scrapping for loose balls and hitting jumpers, the very definition of dedication. In the midst of the Wolves' most tumultuous year yet (the tragic death of Malik Sealy, the scandalous loss of Joe Smith), the 37-year-old forward has been a graceful authority figure. Yes, KG continues to reign as the franchise player, Mitchell's playing time has diminished to single-digit minutes (without a single squawk from him, by the way), and his scoring average is meager. But consider that no other player embodies what Garnett himself proudly refers to as the "family-oriented" spirit of this midlevel franchise. He played in the team's inaugural game in 1989, has since slipped comfortably into an unofficial role as player-coach, and, perhaps most critical, has helped pick up the slack in player/administrator relations left by suspended general manager Kevin McHale.