Relationship between Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves strained after 2016 breakup
K.G. says he took issue with the way the team honored Flip Saunders
Ahead of the 2016-17 NBA season, Minnesota Timberwolves icon and NBA legend Kevin Garnett retired from basketball after a transition of leadership in Minnesota. A plan was previously discussed that Garnett, who spent more than a decade playing for the Wolves, would eventually become a minority owner. But after the death of Flip Saunders, the new leadership switched directions and bought him out of his contract. He spent the last season doing television work for TNT.
The "tense" buyout negotiation might have put a strain on the relationship between the two parties. But in an in-depth interview with the Associated Press, Garnett said he also took issue with the way Saunders, a long-time mentor and coach of Garnett's, was honored by the organization. The team aired a tribute video during a service before the team's home opener against Portland in which players, coaches and media members reflected on their memories with Saunders. But Garnett wasn't on the tape. Here's Garnett on why he didn't share memories in the tribute:
"How do you put a time limit on something like that?" Garnett said. "And then, too, I thought he wasn't celebrated the proper way. You have high school banners, you have (expletive) hockey banners (hanging in the rafters). You couldn't put a Flip banner in Target Center, some place that we helped build? ... We established that market. I helped grow that with him. You can't put him in the (rafters)?
"So I just had problems with how they were shoving this down all of our throats. The young guys, they weren't invested enough to really understand what was going on. I chose to be mute, to be professional and keep all the negative energy down. There was a bigger message I wanted to tell, but I supported it and just kept my mouth shut."
Outside of Saunders, Garnett doesn't seem to have a close relationship with the Minnesota front office, specifically with owner Glen Taylor, who negotiated the buyout of his last contract. Taylor told the AP in February that the team has already reached out to Garnett in regards to setting up a ceremony to hang his jersey in the rafters -- a peace offering that would certainly help mend a broken relationship, and a well-deserved honor for a player that helped build the franchise. But K.G. says he hasn't heard from Timberwolves brass about any jersey-hanging ceremony.
"I choose to let the Timberwolves focus on what they're focused on and I'm focused on what I'm focused on," Garnett said. "I still live in Minny. I still got love for Minny. You know what it is. I'm still a Timberwolf until I die, as I am a Celtic. And that's what it is."
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