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May 24, 2004

Kevin Garnett proves he's the MVP

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers was a must win. They had lost Game 1 by nine and were staring down the possibility of losing both games at the Target Center in Minneapolis before headed to LA, where the Lakers are undefeated in the playoffs. If Minnesota lost, you could pretty much put this series in the books.

In order to win, they needed a strong performance from Kevin Garnett, their team leader for the last nine seasons after being taken Number 1 overall by Minnesota in the 1995 NBA draft. The Wolves had to rely on him even more after All-Star Sam Cassell left the game very early in the first quarter with a hip injury that will likely keep him out of Tuesday’s Game 3 (9 ET, TNT). His Game Seven performance Wednesday night was in the past, and Minnesota needed him to lift the team again. Garnett answered the call; pouring in a huge 24 points and snagging 11 rebounds, leading an undermanned squad to an 89-71 blowout win over the sluggish Lakers.

Garnett raised his game to deal with Cassell being out, and the rest of the Wolves did too. Third-string point guard Darrick Martin added 15 points. Even the quartet of low-talent centers for Minnesota (Ervin Johnson, Mark Madsen, Oliver Miller, Michael Olowokandi) covered Shaq; who Wolves coach Flip Saunders called “unstoppable," to just 14 points on 4-10 shooting.

There are plenty of talented players who have never been able to get it done in the bright lights of the playoffs. Chris Webber comes to mind as one. But Garnett could have been put in that category as well before this postseason. Garnett’s Wolves had been bumped out of the playoffs seven years in a row, and as the team’s face and leader, the blame fell to him. However, Garnett has had a monster playoffs, and is just seven wins from the Larry O’ Brien trophy, given to the winner of the NBA Finals.

In this 2004 postseason, Garnett has a double-double in 13 of the 14 games he’s played, an astonishing statistic. He has averaged 24 points and 14.5 rebounds, above his averages this year when he won the MVP. Garnett has proven his extreme worth time in and time out, silencing critics who say he didn’t deserve the award, despite all that has occurred both on the court and in the newspapers in Minnesota’s first two rounds.

In the first round, Francisco Elson of the Denver Nuggets, who Minnesota dusted off in a rough and emotional five games, came under fire for a post game rant after Denver’s Game Four loss in which he called Garnett “gay," after they had been battling in the post all series long. Elson came under fire from gay and lesbian groups for his immature comment, and apologized through a statement from the Nuggets.

And in the later stages of this series, Garnett made headlines for reasons other than what’s shown in the box score.
Garnett apologized Wednesday afternoon for making comments on Monday about guns and saying he “was ready for war" headed into Game Seven. A reporter asked him about his feelings going into Game Seven of a series marked by hard fouls and trash talking.

"This is it," he responded. "It's for all the marbles. I'm sitting in the house loading up the pump, I'm loading up the Uzis, I've got a couple of M-16s, couple of nines, couple of joints with some silencers on them, couple of grenades, got a missile launcher. I'm ready for war."

While it seems like Garnett was not really referring to war, and was just using an extended metaphor, it was still not the right time or place, with what is going on in Iraq. However, while Francisco Elson and other athletes have apologized through statements or not at all for stupid statements, Garnett owned up to his comments directly and honestly.

"It was one-sided thinking on my part, but I'm man enough to admit it," he said. Garnett specifically mentioned veterans and families with loved ones serving in Iraq in his apology. I'm a young man and I understand when I'm appropriate, and this is totally inappropriate. I was totally thinking about basketball, not reality."

And in the best-known incident of the playoffs, which occurred in Game Six of the 2nd Round at the Sacramento Kings, he and Anthony Peeler got into a fight in the third quarter that resulted in Peeler being tossed from the game that the Kings would win anyway. After Peeler elbowed Garnett in his midsection, Garnett elbowed Peeler in his chest on the next possession. Peeler was ejected because, in retaliation to that, he elbowed Garnett with a shot square in his jaw. Garnett looked dazed, like most people do when a 6’4 220 pound athlete elbows them in the face. Garnett got merely a $7,500 fine; while Peeler sat out Game 7 with a suspension for the incident, costing him not only more money, but also a chance to play in a huge game.

What these playoff moments show about Garnett is not an angry player a la the 2002 versions of Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace, but rather a fiery leader who is determined to help lead this team deeper into the playoffs than it’s ever been, and to a championship. While that may sound cliché, Garnett’s play has been able to speak for itself and lead the Wolves deep into the playoffs. There is no better example of Garnett’s value, talent and leadership than last Wednesday’s Game 7 of the Western Semifinals at home against the Kings.

In an elimination game that was likely the biggest of his life to date, Garnett carried the Wolves on his back to an 83-80 win, with an astonishing 32 points and 21 rebounds. He scored 38% of the team’s points, carrying a battered, tired Minnesota team to the biggest win in franchise history and a berth in the Western Conference Finals.

Garnett became just the fourth player since 1965 to score over 30 points and 20 rebounds in a Game Seven. The other three are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley and Wilt Chamberlain, which is great company to say the least.

This is Garnett’s best shot to win a ring in his career so far, and he will get a title ring before he retires, but his Wolves are tied 1-1 with the Lakers, who host the next games at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where they are 6-0 in the playoffs. The Lakers are still favorites, and now have home court in the series, but the Wolves showed Sunday night that they are not going to roll over for Los Angeles. They are going to need Garnett even more in the coming games without Cassell, because Darrick Martin likely won’t score 15 points, and you can bet that Shaq will not struggle with four Wolves centers that should be playing in the CBA like he did in Game 2. If Sunday’s game was an example, featuring seven technical fouls and a Karl Malone ejection for a flagrant foul when he floored Martin in the fourth quarter, then this will be yet another physical series for the Timberwolves.

Whatever happens in the rest of Western Finals, Garnett has proven to be a leader- no, the leader for the Timberwolves, not just this year, but for almost a decade now. He has shown in this postseason how dominating a power forward he is and how he deserved to be the MVP this year. Performances like the ones Garnett has had in the playoffs make players who were always great talents into icons. Minnesota still needs seven more wins to take home the O’Brien trophy, but Kevin Garnett has always had the attitude, the heart and intensity of a champion. And now he has a chance to earn the ring and the trophy that comes with being one.

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  • Tian Yang (View Email) on May 24, 2004
    Good article, except Kevin Garnett was picked 5th overall in 1995, not 1st.

    Joe Smith, Antonio Mcdyess, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were all picked before him.
  • haha on May 24, 2004
    Tim, you gangster.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on May 24, 2004
    Yeah, I realized that this afternoon after I had turned in the story, my mistake.

    Thanks for the compliment though. It's my first SCO column so I appreciate the feedback.
  • yeah on May 24, 2004
    dont forget bryant "big country" reeves
  • Len Muscarella (View Email) on May 24, 2004
    Hey Michael,
    I've been a Laker fan since Elgin Baylor and Jerry West found a way to lose to the Celtics every spring. But this isn't the most likeable group -- the accused rapist, the Big Aristotle, the shoulda-retire Mailman.
    Garnett is a warrior. Not sure he's got a good enough supporting cast.
    We'll see.
    Keep up the good work.
  • Golden Boy on May 25, 2004
    Funny how Garnett only got a total of zero fouls called on him boh of the games, it seems the golden boy trend is continueing each year, last year it was Timmy Boy and he got the treatment.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Garnett tonight.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on May 25, 2004
    Ouch...Big Country Reeves? He made tens of millions for playing in like 150 games for Vancouver. Good work if you can get it
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on May 25, 2004
    actually, Golden Boy, KG had 2 called on him in Game 1, and has had 5 fouls called on him in 2 games: Gm 1 vs. Denver and Gm. 6 at Sacramento. He's averaging 2.8 PF's per game in the postseason (2.5 in the reg. season), which is a very solid total on defense, and it's certainly not 0. He's also scored 16 or more every game in the postseason. Even Kobe and Shaq and Duncan have at least one night off.
  • KingsFan on May 26, 2004
    GO KINGS...Twolves will be creamed by the Lakers and you all are going to wish the Kings had won the series.
  • salma (View Email) on May 29, 2004
    hi kg waz up iam your funs so i like to ask you a Q so do you think you guys gonna win this year send me back please thnx salma KEVIN GARNET have nice day,
  • Shantel (View Email) on June 2, 2004
    hey kevin garnett is so awesome and talanted.
    he definately deserves the mvp award.the wolves were so awesome this year!
  • Hot sauce on November 9, 2004
    yo wassup man yo boy sauce from the atl thinks KG is the best
    fo sho
  • kristin (View Email) on May 25, 2005 at 5:41 PM
    KG is awesome!! best player in the NBA-in my opinion!! you ROCK!!!
  • kg king (View Email) on August 15, 2005 at 8:34 AM
    hi kevin garnett ,i very big your fan,i'm from lithuania ,i'm 13 ears old,i now you best player on the on the planet ,you are my hero,i now you win nba title.
  • kevins cool friend on September 18, 2005 at 8:52 PM
    kevin my G come bak to washington where u grew up help out in da community boss playa dawgie dog
  • Crystal (View Email) on October 23, 2005 at 6:45 PM
    KG you are my hero!!! you are the best ball player i've ever seen play!!! i am looking forward to seeing you play at the opening game Nov 2, 05 for the second yr. in a row,i went to the opening game last yr. too!!! one day i just wish to meet you, and be able to chill with you, it'd be fun!!! love ya!!!
  • ardiana (View Email) on January 16, 2006 at 11:00 PM
    ooo niceee kevin Garnettt my idoll I love youu
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