Prince music was blaring as the Timberwolves were warming up before Fridays’ 112-96 victory over Portland and the team was going through its pre-game introductions. But before tipoff, the camera found an unexpected visitor – Kevin Garnett.
Garnett had settled into a seat under one of the baskets at Target Center while rocking one of the purple Prince-inspired jerseys the team was wearing.
Party like it’s 1999.— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 17, 2018
WELCOME BACK, KG!!! �� pic.twitter.com/TwY27BJsK7
Garnett’s presence on the video board sent Target Center into a momentary frenzy. Garnett hasn’t been shy about discussing his strained relationship with owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, especially since former coach Flip Saunders died.
Garnett has said he still hopes to have a place in the organization at some point, possibly in ownership, but Garnett did not feel like talking about anything on Friday.
When the Star Tribune asked Garnett for comment, he politely declined, saying “We’re just chilling tonight.”
'SOTA ���� pic.twitter.com/E3wJgCkXbw— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) November 17, 2018
Karl-Anthony Towns said Garnett’s presence was the result of a “long conversation” between him and Garnett.
“I’m happy he came and we played really well as a team,” Towns said. “All he wants to do is see Minnesota succeed so I’m just happy we gave him something to cheer about.”
The Wolves defense showed up in a big way Friday. It held Portland to under 100 points for the first time all season. It’s no coincidence to the team that this happened with Robert Covington and Dario Saric playing a big role in its success.
The big difference between now and when they were struggling, some Wolves said, was communication.
“There’s little things maybe on TV you can’t hear but, I think the communication is much better. A lot more pointing, a lot more talking,” Towns said. “A lot more understanding of each other. That just comes with time. We finally have things cleared up that we haven’t had cleared up for a long time. We’re finally doing the things we need to do to execute.”
Added Jeff Teague: “[Covington] is one of those guys who can cover a lot of ground and makes up for a lot of our guys’ mistakes. He talks on the defensive end. I can see why he’s one of those guys people talk about as one of the elite defenders.”
With Derrick Rose back in the lineup, coach Tom Thibodeau had a full complement of players to use Friday, and that meant he was going to have to make some decisions on how to deploy his lineup.
For the second straight game, Anthony Tolliver did not play even though he was healthy and much to the chagrin of some Wolves fans on social media, rookie Josh Okogie rode the pine until mop-up duty.
Thibodeau said the rotations can change, and that he likes that he has a lot of options. Tyus Jones played 11 minutes while Gorgui Dieng played 14.
“We probably have 11 guys that are deserving of being in the rotation and sometimes tough decisions have to be made,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone has to stay ready and it usually will work itself out through the course of the year.”