Kevin Garnett takes a shot at T-Wolves management, and who can blame him?

Da Kid developed from a lanky teenager into a grizzled MVP during his dozen years in Minnesota.
Da Kid developed from a lanky teenager into a grizzled MVP during his dozen years in Minnesota.

Tonight, Kevin Garnett plays in Minneapolis for what may be the final time.

The man who made NBA basketball relevant in Minnesota will soon be 36 and is in his 16th NBA season. With averages of 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, KG's production is still solid, but nagging leg injuries have robbed him of much of his athleticism and this season he's playing a near-career-low 31.1 minutes per game. His contract expires after this season, and basketball pundits speculate KG could hang it up this summer.

So tonight promises to be a sentimental night at the Target Center, both for KG and for the Minneapolis fans who adored him throughout his dozen years with the T-Wolves.

But KG, asked earlier this week how he feels about returning to the city where he became The Big Ticket and won an MVP, used the opportunity to take a shot at T-Wolves management.

"It's always special to go back to the true fans and sort of your foundation," KG said. "But as far as that franchise, I have nothing positive to say."

Who could blame KG for being a bit bitter? Following an MVP-winning 2003-04 season where the T-Wolves made a gritty run to the Western Conference Finals, the front office (led by Kevin McHale) reeled off a string of terrible personnel decisions that ended up gutting the roster of most all its talent before you could say "Ndudi Ebi" -- for instance, drafting Rashad McCants, signing cheerleader Mark Madsen to a lifetime contract, the unbelievably disastrous in hindsight Cassell-for-Marko trade, Foye-over-Roy, and believing Ricky Davis and Mark Blount could actually contribute to half-decent NBA teams.

By the summer of 2007, McHale had no cards left to play. In July of that year, the team was facing the prospect of trotting out a 2007-08 team featuring Garnett with a supporting cast of Ricky Davis, Rashad McCants, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Juwan Howard. You could've substituted Garnett with an in-his-prime Michael Jordan and that squad still wouldn't have been good enough to sniff the playoffs.

Despite being stuck on gawdawful teams his last two years in Minnesota, KG continued to put up MVP-level numbers: In 2005-06 the T-wolves won 33 games, but KG notched an absurd Player Efficiency Rating of 26.88. The next season, his last in Minnesota, the T-Wolves won 32 games, but Garnett's PER was 24.20. Kevin Love's PER this year? 25.82. As anyone who has paid attention this year can attest, K-Love is in the midst of a ridiculous season, and KG's numbers were right there with him during his last years here. T-Wolves fans shouldn't forget KG's productivity and durability throughout his 12-year Minnesota run.

The bottom line is that KG was forced to squander his age-29 and age-30 seasons because McHale failed in every attempt to surround him with talent. Did KG get paid a ridiculous amount during those years? Yes. Did he sometimes use his power within the organization to promote terrible personnel moves? Possibly. But even if he did, that's McHale's problem, not KG's.

Let's stop and consider that 2006-07 T-Wolves roster for a moment. Here are the players who played the most minutes for that team, in order: Davis, KG, Blount, Trenton Hassell, and Mike James. All of those guys are out of the league now except for KG. And yet people react indignantly when KG takes a shot at the T-Wolves front office?

Of course, McHale and the rest of the 1st Avenue Country Club are long gone now, so perhaps I'm just making a string of moot points. But as somebody who vividly remembers KG's development from a lanky, raw teenager to a man amongst men who led sub-par teams to the playoffs year after year after year while management bungled every personnel move along the way, I must say, I can't blame The Big Ticket for looking back with some bitterness. Because of the front office's ineptitude throughout most of his tenure here, both KG and T-Wolves fans will always look back and wonder, 'what could've been?'

And if this is his final game in Minneapolis, let's hope T-Wolves fans show some class and send the best player in franchise history off with the standing ovation he deserves.

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