Nearing the end of their respective careers, Kevin Garnett and George Karl hope to make an impact on struggling teams, and give back to the game that has provided them with so much.
The Big Ticket’s Final Hurrah
The storied career of Kevin Garnett is nearing a close, however he could not say farewell to the league without allowing his time in the Association to come full circle. And so, as it was written in the fairy tale, Garnett waived his no-trade clause on the day of the NBA trade deadline, and was shipped home to Minnesota in exchange for Thaddeus Young. The Minnesota Timberwolves are far removed from contending for a playoff spot–let alone a championship– so Garnett’s intentions are clear: Kevin Garnett has returned home to retire. Although KG is only a shell of the former player he was when he left Minnesota in 2007, his time with the team, as well as the legacy he will leave behind, should be paid its dues.
Garnett was drafted by the Timberwolves with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft. The Wolves gambled on him, as he was one of the first players ever to be drafted straight out of high school. The Big Ticket took the league by storm, and in his tenure with Minnesota he worked his way up to being one of the greatest power forwards to ever step on the hardwood. In his twelve year stint in the Twin City, KG appeared in ten All-Star Games, averaged more than 21 points and 11 rebounds per contest, and won the MVP award in the 2003-2004 season. He led the Wolves to all eight of the franchise’s playoff appearance, including a run to the Western Conference Finals in May of 2004. However, after their magical run ended, the Wolves began to struggle. So much so, that in 2007, they decided it was time to completely rebuild. The shipment of Garnett to the Celtics proved to be a great move for Garnett. In his time with the Celtics, he was able to capture a championship that had evaded him for so long, and he was afforded a chance to play with other future Hall of Famers, such as Paul Pierce.
On the other hand, Minnesota has yet to play up to the level they were at when they had Garnett. Having him back this late in his career will certainly not help fix that problem while he is there, but it is a wonderful gesture nonetheless to allow him to retire in the city that believed in him. For his entire career, Kevin Garnett has been so much more than just a basketball player. He has been a leader, and has played the game with a level of fire-power and intensity that is unmatched. Hopefully, for Minnesota’s sake, he can teach the team filled with budding young talent about the game beyond the game that has made him a living legend.
Fit For a King
George Karl knows success. His career consists of more than 1,100 wins, a Coach of the Year Award (ironically given to him in his last season with Denver), and a trip to the Finals as the head coach of the Seattle Supersonics. However, Karl has yet to capture the elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy that has for so long evaded him, and for this reason, he is back for one last run at it as the helm of the Sacramento Kings.
Unfortunately, Karl is joining a team that is far from a level where they are fit to compete for a championship. The Kings have not had a winning record, let alone made the playoffs since the end of their 2006 campaign. Karl the third coaching change this season for the Kings, replacing Tyrone Corbin. Corbin lasted just two months, after replacing the fired Michael Malone who started the season as the head coach. Karl knows that the Kings will not make it to the playoffs this year, but he does not see the season as a lost cause. He plans to spend the final 30 games of the season trying to build up his players’ confidence and find out what he will need going into the post-season.
Karl last coached in Denver, where his Nuggets made it to the playoffs in all nine seasons. Although Karl found much success in getting his team into the playoff picture, once they were there, the Nuggets often floundered, advancing out of the first round only once out of their nine trips. The highly experienced Karl is one of only nine coaches in NBA history to break the 1,000 win barrier and he did so with stints with the Cleveland, Milwaukee, Golden State, Seattle, and, of course, Denver. In his time with those teams, he developed a reputation for having a knack for turning teams around. The Kings, who are currently building around superstar center Demarcus Cousins, are loaded with potential. The team has Cousins, high profile scorer Rudy Gay, a tenacious Darren Collison, and two very raw talents in Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore. This team, once they develop chemistry and a can-do sense about winning, can be a scary team to play. The looming question now— is George Karl the man to take them there?