In a surprise announcement Thursday, we learned that NBA legend Kevin Garnett is going to have his number retired.
But no, it wasn’t his number 21. And no, the announcement didn’t come from the the Timberwolves — the franchise for which he played about ⅔ of his career games, including the first 12 of his career.
Instead, it was the Celtics, who are retiring KG’s number 5 sometime during the 2020-21 season in a tribute to Garnett’s six seasons in Boston — which included in 2008 the franchise’s first championship since 1986.
Garnett tweeted shortly thereafter: “I’m honored and thankful to have my number retired with the Celtics. I will always have immense respect and appreciation for ownership, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, my past teammates and Celtic Nation!”
You can read that however you choose — as nothing more than a sincere appreciation of the Celtics or a combination of that and lingering bad feelings Garnett has with some key stakeholders in Minnesota.
I wrote a few months ago about how it was long overdue for Garnett’s No. 21 to hang in the Target Center rafters. Garnett presided over the most successful (and the only successful) sustained stretch in franchise history, which included eight consecutive playoff berths, a trip to the Western Conference Finals and an MVP award.
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My sense a few months back was that while there seemed to be some signs of the relationship between Garnett and the Wolves being repaired — helped when Tom Thibodeau, who helped nudge KG out the second time, was fired and replaced by Ryan Saunders, son of Flip (who was one of Garnett’s biggest allies) — there was still a fissure.
And that the hesitation in retiring Garnett’s No. 21 here was being driven more by the player than the organization.
But the conclusion in that piece was that both sides need to get over whatever wedge still exists and come together on a Target Center jersey ceremony. It’s fine that KG’s No. 21 seems to be “unofficially” retired, since nobody else has worn that number since Garnett was traded to the Celtics in 2007.
Boston’s ceremony announcement, while deserved, makes the absence of a similar honor with the Wolves even more conspicuous. Garnett is easily the best player in the history of the franchise. He hasn’t played an NBA game in more than four years.
Gersson Rosas already pulled off one miracle when he unloaded Andrew Wiggins’ contract and acquired D’Angelo Russell in the same trade. Maybe he can help unlock this puzzle, too, and make a seeming no-brainer decision work for both sides.