Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Wolves owner Taylor feels Garnett 'tanked' end of last season
ESPN.com news services
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett has heard plenty of criticism in his 13 years in the NBA.
He doesn't hit the big shot in the fourth quarter. He only got the Minnesota Timberwolves out of the first round of the playoffs one time. His contract limited the team's ability to surround him with talent.
Through it all, no one ever questioned his intensity, effort or determination.
Until now, and from an unlikely source.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, a staunch supporter and friend of Garnett's during their 12 seasons together in Minnesota, leveled some rare criticism at his former star on Tuesday, suggesting Garnett "tanked it" when he missed the last five games last year.
After the Celtics ended the Rockets' 22-game winning streak on Tuesday night with a 94-74 win, Garnett didn't have much to say about the controversy.
"I'm in Boston right now," he said courtside. "I care less what Glen Taylor thinks of Kevin Garnett. Right now, huge win for us. That's nonsense. I don't even know why he would bring that up, but, you know, it shows the taste of some people."
He continued later: "Glen Taylor was good to me while I was a Timberwolf. I'm a Boston Celtic now. I'm not going to be going back and forth and saying tasteless things. That's not in my character. I'll let him speak if he wants to.
"I have nothing to do with the Minnesota Timberwolves. That's my past and I'm in a new chapter in my life. I thank him for the opportunity, for giving me, when I was younger, being able to not only explore my dream, but to make it to where I am today. And that's all I'm going to say about that."
Taylor's remarks came after practice Tuesday afternoon, as the Wolves' strong play down the stretch was being discussed. They have won four of their last six games and say they want to win as many as possible to create some momentum going into the offseason.
Taylor took exception to a local newspaper columnist who suggested it was time for the Wolves, who are 16-50, to start losing to improve their chances in the draft lottery.
Garnett missed the last five games of last season with a leg injury and watched his team lose its final seven games, improving its draft status along the way, before being traded to Boston in July.
Taylor said the columnist "said a little bit last year that we sort of like tanked it. I don't think that. I don't like that so much. I don't like that.
"It was more like KG tanked it. I think the other guys still wanted to play. But it sure changed the team and didn't make us [as good]."
Before the Celtics took on the Rockets, Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, said Taylor's remarks were "ridiculous."
"KG has never been questioned, nor would he ever be questioned by anyone, about his effort or desire to win and accomplish team success," Miller said in a phone interview. "During his tenure in Minnesota, nothing was more important to him than bringing a championship to Minnesota."
Last year wasn't the first time the Wolves have been accused of dumping games.
Two years ago, the team shut down Garnett for the final six games, which ended with center Mark Madsen missing seven 3-pointers in a double-overtime loss to Memphis.
They traded a first-rounder to the Clippers in a deal for Marko Jaric that year, and needed to finish with a lottery pick in the top 10 to keep it. Minnesota lost four of its last five to ensure that happened.
The Wolves aren't the only team to come under scrutiny for tanking games in recent years. Memphis, which comes to the Target Center on Wednesday night, has heard it this year after trading star Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a package of nondescript players, and Miami recently made the decision to bench Dwyane Wade for the rest of the season.
So far this season, the Timberwolves cannot be considered in that company.
They have shown marked improvement in the last week Taylor said "the right thing to do is to press these guys to win, win, win, win, win."
"Why are we winning? We're winning for [the players], but the other thing is I think we're winning for the fans," he said. "I think we have to show the fans that, what I call it, there is a plan. That we're going to improve next year. And you can see where we were and this is where we're going and next year we're going to be a better team."
With a young core including Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye, there is some optimism that better days lie ahead.
Which is one reason why some fans wouldn't mind seeing the Wolves drop a few games to end up with the No. 1 pick and a possible shot at Kansas State star Michael Beasley.
The Wolves head into Wednesday night's game tied with Memphis and Seattle for the second-fewest wins in the league, five ahead of Miami.
Gomes, for one, prefers to try winning.
"We have to worry about the guys that are here now and who we're playing for now," he said. "We're playing for the 13 guys that are on our roster, our coaching staff, and the fans here. We can't think about who might be coming in here next year, a trade, or all that stuff. That's out of our control."
Besides, Taylor pointed out, dumping games guarantees the Wolves nothing. Under the current system, the team with the worst record has just a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick.
Though the Timberwolves have plenty of experience in the draft lottery, they have never improved their position by getting lucky. They often lose out in the deal, such as in 1992 when they had the best shot at the No. 1 pick and Shaquille O'Neal, but slipped to third and wound up with Christian Laettner.
"Let's be realistic. We've never been lucky," Taylor said, laughing. "That's not part of the plan, but let's hope that happens. I'm not counting on it."
It was more like KG tanked it. I think the other guys still wanted to play. But it sure changed the team and didn't make us [as good].
-- Owner Glen Taylor
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.