Kevin Garnett has been in the NBA for 21 seasons. If he decides to come back for the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016-17, K.G. will have played more seasons than anybody in NBA history. That decision hasn't been made yet, at least as far as anybody outside of Garnett knows. Sam Mitchell, Garnett's former teammate and coach believes the way the 2015-16 season ended could possibly lead to Garnett's retirement, rather than coming back for another season at the age of 40.
Mitchell is referring to the way he was fired as Minnesota's interim coach and how general manager Milt Newton was pushed aside for the full-time position. They took over their respective interim positions after the passing of Flip Saunders right before the season ended. At the end of a strong finish to the season, Mitchell was informed a couple hours before the last game that he would not be coming back as coach in 2016-17. The Wolves would eventually hire Tom Thibodeau to be the president and coach of the team with Scott Layden helping him in the front office.
On Sirius XM Radio, Mitchell said he thinks it could influence Garnett's decision to retire, but as of the last time they spoke, K.G. remained undecided.
"Last time I talked to him, he hadn't made up his mind. I just think the way last year ended with the owner at the very last minute -- and people don't understand, we all felt pretty good about us. Myself, Milt Newton, and the coaching staff, we all felt pretty good about us coming back. We felt like we did a good enough job to at least earn us a couple of years, a year or two, to keep that thing rolling. And I just think KG was just so hurt by the way things happened.
"For people to send you messages as if you were going to be back and your staff was going to be back and we had everything going in the right direction, and to get a phone call [from owner Glen Taylor] two hours before your last game basically saying, 'I've changed my mind and I'm going in a different direction,' it just kind of knocked us all for a loop. We've all recovered from it and moved on but if you know Kevin, Kevin is very sensitive and he's very loyal. And there was a lot of people in that organization that was let go, and the way it was done just left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouth.
"To be honest with you, I don't know how he's going to deal with that. Kevin takes that stuff personally and it's going to be interesting to see ultimately what he decides to do. It's a shame that if he doesn't come back and play, that his last year in Minnesota ended the way it did."
You can hear the words from Mitchell's mouth here:
Mitchell is dead-on about loyalty being so big to Garnett. It's a reason he was so hurt by owner Glen Taylor after being traded to Boston in 2007 when it was implied that Garnett didn't give his all at the end of the 06-07 season. It took Saunders' return to Minnesota and imploring K.G. to bury the hatchet with Taylor years later to get him to waive his no-trade clause and accept the full circle ending to his career. Garnett even signed a two-year deal to finish out his career in Minnesota last summer.
Where Mitchell is using his own firing as possible influence for Garnett's decision is how he may be off on how he views the situation. It's very believable that Mitchell was under the impression he'd come back for next season and maybe even more. Following the start of February, the Wolves actually played very competitive basketball and had one of the top offenses in the NBA during the final 2 1/5 months of the season. Most of that was due to assistant David Adelman simplifying and speeding up an outdated offensive system that Mitchell had the Wolves playing.
Many around the Wolves believed that Mitchell thought he should and would be back after this season, but that this was not a likely scenario as the season ended. People just didn't think the way Mitchell was informed of Taylor's intentions -- which was not the correct way to go about it -- would be how everything shook out. Immediately following the final game, news spread quickly that Mitchell and Newton were both going to be replaced in the hopes of finding a dual role patterned after Stan Van Gundy in Detroit.
Garnett's lack of trust in the organization is also more likely to stem from the Wolves not hiring Sam Cassell, Garnett's former teammate in Minnesota, as the coach rather than be upset with the way Mitchell's firing went down. K.G. doesn't appear to be as thrilled at reuniting with Thibodeau, who was an assistant in Boston when Garnett was there, because of wanting Cassell to be the coach.
Not to mention, Garnett seemed to be on track to be a part owner of the Wolves when he agreed to come back to the organization, and that situation appears to not be very likely at the time being. If anything, those two events would far outweigh Mitchell's firing, quite predictable at the end of the season, and the way he was fired, not quite so predictable.