Six years later, Kevin Garnett finally yields to Kevin Love, Wolves
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It has been six years since Kevin Garnett left Minnesota, dealt to Boston in 2007 from the franchise he had become the essential face of in the first 12 years of his career.
Even so, the 37-year-old Garnett, now in the twilight of his career, remains engrained in the fabric of Wolves franchise history.
But when Garnett returned again Friday to Minneapolis with his new squad, the Brooklyn Nets, perhaps for the final time in his Hall of Fame career, it was as if one era was finally stepping aside for the next.
Garnett, in his seven previous rematches with his old squad, had never lost. Each time, he seemed to have an extra edge, an intention to send a reminder, a message to Love -- his successor as the Wolves' central figure --and the Wolves that he still had the advantage.
That storyline underwent a rewrite Friday.
The mess that is the Jason Kidd-led Nets spiraled even further into disillusionment. Love and the Wolves played the part of the willing aggressor, never allowing Brooklyn much of chance at making the eventual 111-81 rout remotely look like a game.
"Our guys really came out with a lot of energy, defended them pretty well," coach Rick Adelman said after the Wolves (8-6) put an abrupt stop to two-game slide. "It was a good win. We did what we needed done before we went on the road."
This time, it was Love who walked away with the advantage, though not because of lack of fight from Garnett. Love was subjected to constant bullying from Garnett, who tried whatever he could to throw his counterpart off, to trigger a reaction.
Love wasn't having it. From his vocalized respect for Garnett off the court to his ability to keep his emotions in check in-game, the Wolves star showed a level of maturation that was befitting for a player who is on the ascent towards the status Garnett once held in Minnesota.
Love did his talking with his stat line. In for 28 minutes before being pulled for the entirety of the fourth quarter, he balanced his 17 points with 16 rebounds and four assists, also clearing space inside with his ability to contain the combative Garnett.
"That's kind of vintage KG," Love said. "Trying to get himself going, himself into the right mind frame. I just didn't really care."
Garnett couldn't do much to rally his disheveled team, which just unraveled further after their ninth loss in 12 games. His eight points and eight rebounds were only a footnote in the one-sided affair. At one point, he even lost his cool, whistled for technical and flagrant fouls with a hit on Love -- another indication of the Nets' state of affairs.
"Two guys battling, fighting, frustration, whatever you want to call it," Garnett said, describing his task of going against Love. "He goes hard, I go hard. I'm on it. End of that."
Garnett's seething frustration afterward was a sight Wolves fans haven't been used to seeing from the All-Star in recent years. Anger from the building disaster the $186 million Nets experiment has become spilled out of him in postgame.
"We're trying to soul search right now, see who we are," Garnett said. "We're better this and we know it. I don't know what it is. Broken record keep playing the same old song. We're playing the instruments, so it's on us."
Regardless of the proverbial passing of the torch, there were still reminders of Garnett's place in Minnesota lore on display.
A montage of a youthful Garnett, donned in his familiar No. 21 Timberwolves jersey, rolled on the Target Center scoreboard in the first half, followed by a standing ovation from the crowd.
Those images and moments won't go away, but they are now being joined by a new chapter in Wolves history, championed by Love.
However, Love knows where he stands. While he outplayed Garnett this time, Love joked with teammate Kevin Martin that he wouldn't have wanted to be asked to do so with KG in his prime.
"Because he was something else," Love said. "He's a Hall of Fame player. He's the Big Ticket. You haven't seen many players like him before, and you probably never will again."