Flip Saunders has no problem starting Kevin Garnett, and neither should you

Ball Don't Lie
Flip Saunders has no problem starting Kevin Garnett, and neither should you
Flip Saunders has no problem starting Kevin Garnett, and neither should you

We can only imagine how Kevin Garnett will release his ridiculous energy once he eventually moves into a management role with the Minnesota Timberwolves, if only because he's unleashed it all over NBA courts for more than half his life now, but for the time being he remains a starter on a pro basketball team.

In a wide-ranging interview with Grantland's Zach Lowe, Wolves coach/team president/part owner Flip Saunders confirmed his 39-year-old power forward/center/crazy person would be in the starting lineup.

He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.

Indeed, Garnett has started every game he's appeared in since his debut in Minnesota's starting lineup on Jan. 30, 1996, midway through his rookie year. That's 1,529 starts in 1,529 combined regular-season and playoff games for the T-Wolves, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. So, yes, KG fits the description.

Whether he's still a viable starting big man in the NBA is the real question, particularly on a rebuilding team that now features Nikola Pekovic's $12.1 million price tag, current No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, the eye-opening Gorgui Dieng, former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, Serbian import Nemanja Bjelica and 24-year-old Adreian Payne, who Saunders spent a future first-round pick on in February.

Garnett's presence leaves one starting spot for that lot and also handcuffs Minnesota's ability to play Shabazz Muhammad or even Andrew Wiggins as a small-ball four. But that's a problem Saunders is willing to accept in exchange for a talented young roster that will benefit from KG's omnipresence. Often times, that's simply lip service from a coach speaking about a past-his-prime future Hall of Famer eating minutes that could be better spent on an up-and-coming talent in need of experience, but in Garnett's case it might actually be true. We'll let Saunders explain in another excerpt from his Q&A with Lowe.

One of the best stories going through the grapevine in Vegas was that at some practice, KG ripped into Pek for not getting back on defense — hit him with “mother[expletive]” and everything. And no one had ever seen anyone talk to Pek like that, because he’s Pek and he’s scary. Do you remember that?

That happened during the season, in his very first practice with us. People were talking about it in Vegas, because KG came out and did a shootaround with us there, and people couldn’t believe how energetic he was. And we said, “Well, you should have seen him when he ‘mother[expletive]ed’ Pek because he didn’t get back on defense during a dummy drill.” No one had ever seen that with Pek.

That’s KG. He always said that living up to his contract meant giving everything he had, in practices and games. He expects that from everyone on the team. A guy like Pek has never been pushed.

How did Pek react?

He put his damn head down and started running fast. That’s the thing about KG: He’s running back faster than anyone. If a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest power forwards ever, is doing that at 38, how can you not do it?

And here’s the thing: KG can still play.

When Garnett arrived in Boston in 2007, he transformed a once-proud franchise that had been stuck in a 20-year championship rut into one that truly believed it could win again. The Celtics won the title and contended for the large majority of his six seasons there. But he was an MVP-caliber player at the start of that run and still a highly productive one by the end, even as he mulled retirement every summer after the C's run to the seventh game of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. So, his mother-effing routine worked.

He didn't quite resonate the same in Brooklyn, where his production suffered and he missed 38 games due to injury and the need to rest legs that have endured 55,145 minutes of maximum effort and one season-ending knee surgery. But it might prove easier to reach young Wolves who grew up watching him terrorize the league than Nets vets who heard KG barking in their ears for the majority of their careers.

Doc Rivers employed his 5-5-5 strategy at the end of Garnett's tenure in Boston, playing him in five-minute intervals throughout the game, and Minnesota could develop a similar strategy in shorter stints. If it doesn't pan out, Saunders can always reconsider his stance, and KG can in turn mull retirement once more rather than hear someone else's name during starting roll call. You might remember the Celtics let him stay home when he wasn't in the lineup, simply because he got too amped watching from the bench. 

Either way, there is purportedly a front office position waiting when he does finally sit down. Just be sure to pad those office walls in case he decides to bash his head against them before going about his work.

- - - - - - -

Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next